Thursday, August 30, 2012

Toddlers' Cooking Class: Rainbow Fruit Kebabs

Oh boy I had a blast today with four adorable toddlers and their moms, making 'Rainbow-on-a-Stick'!

Rainbows-on-a-stick fruit kebabs with grapes, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe and strawberries

After a quick intro and donning of aprons and the cutest chef hats ever, I fished out a picture of a rainbow and went through the colors with the kids. Gosh do they know their colors! Then I had a giveaway: if they guessed the fruit correctly, they would get to take it home. Basil took home the kiwi fruit, and the rest of the kids snagged apples!

We started by taking the tops off the strawberries and cutting them in half. Then the kiwis were cut into bite sized squares. After that everyone got a 1/2" slab of cantaloupe and their pick of mini cookie cutter shapes (butterfly, lily, daisy, bell), and went to town cutting out fruit shapes. Ditto with the watermelon slabs. The pineapple cubes were done with the Curious Chef kid safe knives - these worked really well and it was a huge relief not having to worry about any accidents.

After all the cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing - it was just like Masterchef! - I handed out bamboo skewers (with the sharp points snipped off), put together a Rainbow-on-a-Stick as an example, then let the kids at it. Everyone did so well!

At the end of the class, I brought out some apples, carrots, celery and lemon and had everyone pick out their fruit-veg combo to run through the juicer. I'm glad to be getting more use out of my Green Star Twin Gear Juice Extractor. Since it's a triturating juicer (not a centrifugal one), it doesn't 'cook' the juice and it extracts a whole lot more juice. Oh, I also served up some wontons for everyone to sample. I think they liked it :)

The set up: Kids would come up and get the fruit to cut and we worked our way down the list.

Next up, we are going to make Pizza from scratch! I think the kids will have fun kneading and rolling out the dough, and putting their favorite toppings on their personal pizza. For more information on the classes I offer, click HERE. Classes start from $10 per person per class!

Do you cook with your kids? Kids can be such great helpers in the kitchen. What are your favorite kids' recipes?

xo Gracie 

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Toddlers' Cooking Classes: Kids can Cook!

I'm looking forward to my first toddlers' cooking class at the end of this month! I've taught kids how to cook for years, but they have mostly been ages six and up. When my friend Amy asked about cooking classes for her three year-old, I thought "Why not?". Of course, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be very possible to have cooking classes for kids that age, that are safe, impart some cool kitchen skills, and fun!

I've planned a healthy and fun dish for this upcoming class. I ordered some kid safe knives, and aprons and chef hats. I have up to four kids per class, which is a manageable number for me - allows me to give each one lots of attention and get a lot of interaction in.

Stay tuned for my report on how well the kids did!

    xo Gracie

    p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad
    here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for
    supporting my blog!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Asian Shrimp Cucumber Salad Recipe

Cucumber salad with sesame ginger lime dressing is one of my favorite salads, and today I dressed it up with shrimp for Kim's bridal shower. I've seen variations of this 'asian' salad all over the internet, but I prefer mine the best. It has just the right balance of sweet, sour, salty, and the 'umami' that imparts something extra special to this refreshing summer salad. The recipe below makes enough for four (1/2 cup) servings of salad.

A really delicious salad

One hothouse cucumber
One large knob of ginger (about thumb-sized), ground into a paste. (I use a mortar and pestle)
One clove garlic, finely minced
Juice from one lime
2 T apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's organic raw unfiltered ACV)
1 T coconut palm sugar. This is delicious sugar from the sap of coconut palm flower buds.
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup cooked shrimp (optional)

The sliced cucumber awaits its ginger sesame lime dressing. 

  1. Use a fork to rake lines down the length of the cucumber. (when sliced, looks prettier).
  2. Slice the cucumber in half, length-wise. Then slice each halve into thin slices. Place in bowl.
  3. Into a smaller bowl, place the lime juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut palm sugar, salt, fish sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well.
  4. Pour the dressing over the sliced cucumber, add shrimp and sesame seeds. Toss to coat the cucumber and shrimp evenly with the dressing.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your tastes.
  6. Serve immediately, or keep covered in refrigerator for up to a day before serving. 
The coconut palm sugar can be substituted with regular sugar. You may omit the fish sauce and use 1/4 tsp more salt, or you can also substitute the fish sauce with soy sauce. Rice vinegar or white vinegar can be used in place of apple cider vinegar. I prefer cooking the shrimp myself rather than using the ready-cooked shrimp. I marinate about 1 1/2 cup of raw shrimp in 1/4 tsp salt, dash white pepper, one clove garlic (minced), then quick fry in 2 T peanut oil. 

Where to obtain ingredients? I am able to buy most of what I need at the Strip District in Pittsburgh - I use natural ingredients, with no MSG or preservatives, in my cooking. 

What's your favorite cucumber salad recipe? How did you like mine? Would love to hear from you!

xo Gracie 

p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Ultimate Zucchini Fries Recipe

Zucchini fever abounds as the zucchini plants - if you unsuspectingly planted more than one - yield more zucchini than you could possibly eat, use, or give away. The fruit seem to double in size overnight. I once missed picking a zucchini hidden deep within the lush gargantuan mother bush. By the time I realised it was there, it had grown to the size of a log!

I digress. You are here maybe because you love zucchini fries and want the ultimate zucchini fries recipe, which I am 99.9999% sure I possess. Or maybe you're already up to *here* with zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, zucchini casserole, grilled zucchini, zucchini stir fry, and any other way you could think of to utilize all that zucchini. You have come to the right place, my friend.

The ultimate zucchini fries

My zucchini fries are delicious and crispy, with a satisfying crunch every eager bite, and giving way to a sweet juicy flavor-bursting center. What's more, they stay crispy for a long time rather than getting flaccid soon after emerging from the deep fryer. The recipe has been tested by hundreds of people at the farmers markets I set up at. The general sentiment is 'amazing' and even kids who don't like veggies like these fries.

You'll need the following for a large zucchini (about 1.5 - 2 lbs):
5 cups of vegetable oil for frying (peanut oil is best)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup corn flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
About 180 ml water

  1. Cut the zucchini into generous sized fingers, like thick cut fries or even thicker (I like mine thick).  If the center is watery and full of seeds, you can remove and discard the center (I use it all). Zucchini 'fingers' taste sooo much better than the usual long-sliced version, and you get more zucchini than batter too. Set aside.
  2. Start heating the 5 cups of frying oil in your fryer. I use a good quality carbon steel wok. Heat to 350 F. How do you know it's hot enough? You can either use a thermometer (candy or deep fry type) or wing it. I do it the old-fashioned Chinese way - I place my hand palm down over the surface of the oil (but not touching it!) and the heat coming off it tells me if oil is hot enough. 
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  4. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the dry ingredients, stirring vigorously till you get a smooth even paste. Then keep adding water bit by bit, stirring after each addition, till you get a smooth, thick batter. How thick? Like pancake batter. Try dipping a zucchini finger into the batter mix - the finger should come out completely coated, not runny. 
  5. Next, add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and mix well. 
  6. Frying will be done in two batches. Put a few fingers into the batter, coating them well. Pull them out of the batter one by one, dropping them into the frying oil as you go. Repeat till half the fingers are battered and in the hot oil. Separate any fingers that are sticking together. I use my wok spatula and extra long cooking chopsticks for this. 
  7. In about 5 minutes, the fries should be golden brown on the outside. It might take less time or more - just go by the 'golden brown' rule. Take the fries out, letting the excess oil drain off as much as possible. I use a bamboo strainer to extricate the fries from the hot oil. 
  8. Enjoy! I love zucchini fries with ketchup!
What's your favorite dip for zucchini fries? Or do you just enjoy them plain? Do you have a favorite time-tested zucchini fries recipe? I LOVE to hear from you - please leave a comment!

xo Gracie 

 p.s. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my sponsors give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Paper Souffle Cups vs Nut Cups for Baking Cupcakes: Food Safe?

I've been baking a LOT of cupcakes and testing recipes. And I've been eating them too. Hey somebody's gotta be the quality control supervisor right? After finishing my existing stock of solid colored standard paper cupcake liners, I bought a pack of Wilton Unbleached Standard Baking Cups, 75 Count paper cupcake liners. While these work great (peels off the cuppies easily with no wastage), they don't hold up well by themselves. They need muffin pans. I remembered my cousin Yoonie's cupcake liners were stiff and lovely to bake-n-serve in, and started looking for those.

This was when I found out that Wilton Nut Cups (see pic and link on right) are not oven safe and not food safe, thus are a Big No No for baking cupcakes. At first glance they looked similar to the ones Yoonie uses. But reading the forums online, the waxy coating that lines the inside of the cups are not heat-stable. When exposed to the high temps in the oven, I imagine this coating would melt and contaminate the cupcakes. Some said the odor is remniscent of burning plastic even. :S

Continuing my hunt for a food safe paper cup suitable for cupcake baking, I came across these Paper Souffle Portion cups! These are made for baking souffles, although they can double up as cups for serving sauces, condiments, dressings, medicines, and yes, nuts too. Perfect. The Webstaurant Store stocks the Solo brand 1.25 oz paper souffle cups (250 cups for $4.29 plus $8 shipping to my home). These measure 2 inches across at the top of the cup, thus are the standard size for cupcakes.

No prizes for guessing which ones I ordered :p

Find these paper souffle cups at The Webstaurant Store

By the way, I believe I have found the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and the perfect not-too-sweet, silky smooth swiss meringue buttercream frosting to top it. Stay tuned for my upcoming post!

xo Gracie

P.S. It would be AWESOME if you could click on any ad here - my advertisers give me a few cents per click. Thanks for supporting my blog!