Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen: Taco Night

This is my cousin Taylor and she is 12 years old. Everybody say "Hi Taylor!"

Taylor is a picky eater. But, you know what helps? If a kid gets to make their food, they're a lot more likely to eat their creation. Not only that, but it helps them become familiar with ingredients and what is healthy.

They can read directions for step-by-step learning and help measure out all the ingredients to learn ratios and portions.

It also helps develop their motor skills to stir, chop, slice, and dice.

One of the best ways to introduce vegetables is in meals that are kid-friendly and familiar. Items such as tacos, pizza, and hot dogs. Each of these can have a variety of additions to try each time without altering the original meal so that they won't recognize it. We had taco night and Taylor tried refried beans for the first time! She happily scooped up her portion once she learned they were just pinto beans. The appearance wasn't that appetizing to her, but with a little explanation she learned something new and likes a new food!

Get creative with the leftovers too! We used the small helpings of taco meat, refried beans, veggies, and cheese to make quesadillas for lunch the next day. This would also be good as a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs or overtop a bed of lettuce as a taco salad with crushed chips!

A few tips to remember while cooking with kids:

-The first step of every venture into the kitchen is to wash your hands!
-Keep all pan handles turned to the side so they cannot be accidentally knocked over.
-Use a small, sturdy stool if kids are too short to reach the counter.
-Chop with the ingredient's flat-side down on the cutting board to avoid unsturdy surfaces.
-Keep everybody back from an open oven door.
-Warn when moving from one spot to another with a hot pan so there is a clear, safe path.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Firsts - Jicama

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! If this is your first Friday Firsts click the image above or on the side bar for more information! I'm happy to see a crew of "regulars" joining me every week! Thank you for sharing your firsts and continuing to spread the word!

My first for this week was trying jicama for the very first time! Jicama is a root vegetable popular in Mexican and Asian cuisines. It is usually eaten raw and when I searched for "recipes" most tips said to cut it in slices and munch as you would with carrots or celery. It is also sometimes added to salsas, stir fries, or salads.

To prepare I cut the tips off and peeled with a vegetable peeler. It smelled exactly like cut grass to me- very fresh and "earthy." The jicama was very hard to cut, it was starchy and clung to my knife like a raw potato.

At this point the kitchen smelled pretty strongly like cut grass. It didn't smell sweet or like something that should be eaten raw. But, I took a deep breath and did what any adventurous person trying a new food would do ...

...I fed a little piece to Corky first!

And he spit it out!! (Not a good sign, especially from the dog that eats everything!)

Ok. Enough stalling! I took a bite and it was odd to say the least. A lot starchier than I expected. The forefront was subtley sweet like an apple or a pear, but there was definitely a raw potato feeling in there. Further back in your mouth it tasted very starchy, almost as if all the moisture in your mouth was being sucked out.

Johnny and I both gave a couple of pieces a try. I will admit that the more you eat, the more you taste the apple tones. But, once you stop eating and go back for another piece it's as if you're right back at the start, building up a tolerance for the starch factor.

Now it's your turn to tell me about your first! To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. It could be the first time you've baked a cake from scratch or the first time you've used your stick blender! Any culinary first will do! Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Roasted Eggplant over Couscous

The lovely Mara posted a few eggplant recipes and her beautiful photos definitely put me in the mood. I bought one on my next grocery trip and promptly forgot about it.

Who decided to put the vegetable bin way down at the bottom of the refrigerator anyways? Out of sight, out of mind! Fortunately for 99% of the vegetables I buy, I remember them before it's too late, as was the case with Mr. Eggplant.

My favorite way to eat vegetables is to cut them all up and roast them together. Tonight was no different, but the eggplant was definitely the star.

1 medium eggplant
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 small onion
1 green pepper
2 large cloves garlic

All of these were cut and doused with a few tablespoons of the sun dried tomato oil my parents brought us for Christmas. I've told you about it before, but in case you forgot it's basically oil, sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and spices and herbs. A touch of Kosher salt and black pepper were added, it was all tossed around and spread onto a baking sheet. No matter what the veggies I always roast at 425° for 20 minutes and they come out perfect!

On the side I cooked Near East roasted garlic and olive oil couscous according to package instructions, except I added a couple tablespoons of pine nuts. This went onto the plate first and then I spooned the veggies over top.

It was a beautiful plate full of bright colors and tastes! It paired nicely with the softer, subtle taste of the couscous and crunch of the pine nuts.

This was exactly what I was in the mood for with eggplant in almost every bite!

Hey What's For Dinner

I'm submitting this dish to Laura's Just Another Meatless Monday. A weekly round-up of meat-free dishes to inspire and be inspired by! Stop by and join us!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


CSN stores is going to be sponsoring a review here at Dinner at Christina's! Their site has literally millions of items in over 200 stores to browse and shop. I've used them before to shop for a computer desk and they have other items like TV stands, pot racks, grills, and a whole slew of kitchen items to drool over!

Believe it or not I don't have any cookware that can go from stove to oven and I don't have any bakeware with a lid to roast in! I'm excited for all of the possibilities this Rachael Ray pot will open up for me! Not to mention add a bright splash of my favorite color green to our kitchen!

Ally of Sweet & Savory awarded me with the Happiness Award! Thank you, Ally! :)

I have to list 10 things that make me happy and then pass onto 10 bloggers!

1) The snow finally melting! I am more than ready for some sunshine and green!
2) My cousin Taylor is coming to stay with me for her Spring Break and we get to hang out and have fun!
3) This semester is half done so that means half done with Macroeconomics!
4) I got my grades from last semester - all A's!
5) I took a leap and ordered a bathing suit and I absolutely LOVE it and feel great in it!
6) Johnny and I have been trying to work out regularly - together!
7) Sunday nights because I can watch The Amazing Race (love the cowboys this season)!
8) My camera to take pictures of people, animals, and food!
9) Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends and upload said pictures!
10) Hugs from Johnny!

Wow, that was harder than expected since I did it a few weeks ago and didn't want to repeat anything! Instead of passing it onto 10 bloggers I'm going to pass it onto all readers to leave a comment telling me one thing that makes you happy!

I dyed my hair! It's just a 28 shampoo wash out kind called Cinaberry. On my hair it ends up sort of dark auburn, with bright flecks of red in the light. Just a little something-something to help chase away the last of the winter blues! (Please ignore our ugly beat-up bathroom in the background.)

My cousin Anne-Marie is hosting a give-away for a bunch of Amazing Grass products, which I told you guys the benefits of a few weeks ago! Head on over and enter!

I think we're all caught up now! There will be food posted again soon, I promise!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Firsts - Irish Soda Bread

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! How are you adjusting to Daylights Savings Time? The first few days is always rough for me missing an hour of sleep, but I can't lie - I love the extra daylight until 7 p.m. If this is your first Friday First please click the image above or on the side bar for more information.

Last week's Friday Firsts had a couple new participants! Nicole of Healthy Chow joined us and submitted her C.R.A.B. muffins made with brussel sprouts! I thought they were really cool, I've never heard of baking with brussel sprouts, only zucchini! I especially loved the healthy bits of bright green peeking out in the final product!

My first for this week was Irish Soda Bread! Not only was this the first time I've made Irish soda bread, but it was also the first time I've ever baked bread from scratch (unless you count banana bread)!!! I felt mighty proud of myself to see it come out of the oven all cracked open and "authentic" looking!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. It could be the first time you've tried sushi or the first time you've eaten at a certain restaurant! Any culinary first will do! Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

Thanks for helping me spread the word each week! If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is a bread made with baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast.

Traditional soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Through the years (and quite controversially to soda bread purists) the addition of eggs, nuts, or dried fruits has become common.

I respect the history of the dish, I recognize it is from a simpler time, but I'm going to make it with additional ingredients. Purists be warned!

4 - 4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk *see note

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter (or two knives), work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.

Stir in the raisins and make a well in the center of the mixture.

Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is too stiff to stir. (*Note - if you do not have buttermilk simply add about 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice to each cup of milk and let sit a few minutes to thicken.) Dust your hands with flour and taking care not to over-knead, form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/2 cup more flour. The dough should be a little sticky and shaggy, resembling biscuit dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and work just enough until it comes together. Form into a round loaf. Move the dough to a large, greased cast-iron skillet or baking sheet (I used a pie tin with venting holes, a gift from the lovely Laura). Using a knife, score an X in the top of the dough about 1 1/2" deep.

Bake approximately 35-45 minutes until the bread is golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is darkening too quickly while baking, tent with aluminum foil. (Mine baked about 38 minutes and the top browned very quickly at the end, so keep an eye on it!)

Let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing. Best when eaten shortly after baking, I have read it does not keep very well.

This was tastier than I expected it to be. A hint of sweetness, but still very much a savory bread. Johnny deemed it "incredible." We each had 3 huge slices (almost half of the loaf) in one sitting alongside the ever-scrumptious New England boiled dinner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grocery Card Winner

The winner of the $25 Kroger grocery gift card is ...

Congratulations to Carol! Thanks for re-blogging about the contest, that's what won it for you!

Please e-mail your mailing address to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com and I'll get this out to you right away!

Thanks for playing along everybody! More than any other give away I've hosted I really wish I did have one for all of you!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

To be honest I made this a few months ago and froze it, but I'll share the recipe again since it's such a popular soup. For some reason it's also one of those meals I used to always get out and never thought to make at home, but it's so easy! I can also control the health factor, as I'm sure restaurants make theirs with a lot more butter and contain cream and higher fat cheeses.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder, to taste
3 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 - 2 cups shredded cheese (used low-fat)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
few Tbsp of cooking water

Begin by melting the butter in a high sided skillet and mixing with the flour to create a roux. Once it starts bubbling whisk in the milk until everything is combined. Add the pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste. Do not add any salt yet because the cheese contains a lot of salt. Once the milk comes up to temperature add between 1 - 2 cups of shredded cheese, depending on strength. I personally like an extra sharp cheddar cheese so I can usually get away with 1 or 1 1/2 cups of cheese. If using a milder cheese it may require upwards of 2 cups. Stir until cheese is melted. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt now if required.

In a separate pot steam about 2 cups of broccoli florets. In your blender, or in a bowl, combine the cheese mixture and the cooked broccoli with a few tablespoons of the steaming water. Puree or blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can reserve a few florets or cheese shreds to place on top as a garnish.

This freezes well. Just thaw in the refrigerator and reheat in a covered pot on the stove, stirring frequently. If it has thickened, simply whisk in a few tablespoons of milk to loosen. We served with sandwich halves for a light dinner.

You are not limited to just adding steamed broccoli! Pureed cauliflower or carrots, possibly diced, cooked potatoes would be good in this soup as well.

Hey What's For Dinner

I'm submitting this to Laura's "Just Another Meatless Monday." A sharing of meatless entrees and snacks to inspire and be inspired every week!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Firsts - Apple Sauce

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! If this is your first Friday First please click the image above or on the side bar for more information.

Last week we had a ton of firsts, the biggest week thus far! Thank you so much for helping spread the word so we can read more firsts and continue to be inspired to try firsts of our own!

The funny thing I noticed was I think almost all of your firsts were things I have never tried before, either! One that caught my eye was Biz's Buffalo Chicken Pizza! I love wings with celery and blue cheese. To put all of those flavors on a pizza seems so unique and delicious!

My first for this week was making my own apple sauce from scratch! I had some fruit I didn't want to waste and decided to wing it! It turned out better than expected and was so easy!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. It could be the first time you've eaten at a restaurant or the first time cooking scallops! Any culinary first will do! Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

There are just a couple days left to enter for a chance to win the $25 grocery gift card! Please head on over there after checking out the firsts! We could all use a little help with the grocery bill and $25 could make a pretty big dent!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fresh Applesauce

I had some pretty sad fruit on my hands and didn't want to waste it. When that happens I usually try to come up with some fruity dessert or bake it to salvage.

I peeled 8 red delicious apples and 2 pears that had been around so long they were getting shriveled. Then I cut them into small wedges and plopped them in a sprayed casserole dish.

This baked in a 350° oven, uncovered for about 45 minutes. I wanted a lot of the excess moisture to evaporate while cooking to leave a concentrated flavor. I then covered it with foil and let it cool for about an hour to trap in any remaining moisture.

The cooked fruit and about 1/4 cup of residual juice went into a big bowl and I used my stick blender to puree it smooth. You could also use a blender and leave it a bit chunky if that is your preference. I did not add any additional sweeteners and it is deliciously sweet and natural tasting on its own! Feel free to add cinnamon or other spices for some variety at this point.

This made about three cups. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You could use for snacks, baby food, or baking!

Only a few days left to enter for a chance to win a $25 grocery gift card!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazing Grass

I have a secret to tell you.

I've been eating something daily for about two months that I haven't shared with you guys. I heard about it from the advice of my cousin, whose opinion I obviously trust.

Well, what is it?! It's Amazing Grass Berry Green Super Food! In fact, I just finished up my first 60 serving tub a few days ago, so it's about time I tell you about it!

I like to have it as breakfast in a smoothie composed of fruit, yogurt, the powder, and a splash of juice. My cousin is able to mix the powder in plain yogurt and eat it. Johnny is ok just stirring it in water or juice. It doesn't really dissolve, so I'll stick to my smoothies every morning for a better texture. Both Johnny and I think the berry taste is very reminiscent of Flintstone's vitamins!

The first week was rough. I was gassy and crampy, my digestive system was working in overtime, and my face was a mess. I was detoxing. But that passed and now I honestly feel a lot healthier. The first noticeable change, and my reason for trying Amazing Grass, was more energy and ability to focus.

Other changes in the past few weeks I've noticed are my hair and nails being healthier and stronger and my skin clearing up. Another terrific "side effect" is that my headaches have all but diminished. For years I have gotten two or three headaches a week. Since starting Amazing Grass I have only had two headaches in almost two months! I honestly have not felt this good in years!

Trendy or not, the stuff works for me and I will continue using it. You guys know I rarely recommend products, but I really love this one. It's made with all-natural, organic ingredients and is gluten-free and vegan. It's full of antioxidants, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and supports body alkalinity.

Alkalinity is especially important because our bodies need a healthy equilibrium of alkaline to maintain the proper pH level. Too often our bodies head towards a more acidic state and that is when disease and illness occurs. Disease cannot live in true alkalinity and I haven't gotten sick once while taking Amazing Grass. Not even after taking Johnny to the ER and sitting in a waiting room of hacking and coughing people!

This is not a sponsored post. I purchased this product with my own money and this is my personal opinion based on my experiences.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Polenta Lasagna

As promised, I used the leftover grilled polenta to create a polenta lasagna. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but I would call it a success so I'm going to pass it onto you!

First I made a pot of my sauce, and also cooked up about a half of a pound of my dad's home made sausage.

Next I sliced the leftover polenta in half, carefully. They were 1/4" thick when I grilled them, so they were about 1/8" thick for the lasagna. I'm glad I ended up cutting them in half, too because the slices soaked up a lot of the sauce and juices and almost tripled in size!

Layering began with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of an 8" x 8" casserole dish so the polenta wouldn't stick. Then polenta, sausage, and finally a sprinkle of mozzarella and Paremsan cheeses. This order was repeated twice until I ran out of polenta and finished with a thin layer of sauce.

I baked in a 350° oven for about 30 minutes, uncovered until the sauce was bubbling. I felt that mine had enough cheese inside, but feel free to top with another layer of cheese and brown it under the broiler.

Let rest 5-10 minutes and then cut into 4 squares and plate. Makes 4 servings. We served alongside a vegetable plate of raw celery and carrot sticks.

Make sure you check out my last post for a chance to win a $25 grocery gift card!

Monday, March 8, 2010

$25 Kroger Cart Buster Gift Card

Now through March 14th Kroger stores is having a Cart Buster Savings Event!

You can save on a variety of name brands (some pictured in the cart above), just look for the yellow tagged items in Kroger Stores.

I don't happen to have a Kroger near enough me to warrant driving for the savings, but I thought one of my lucky readers would love a chance to win a $25 Kroger Gift Card!

To be eligible to win, PLEASE visit Kroger's web site and enter your zip code to see if there is a store (or any of their sister stores) near you. I would like the gift card to go to somebody who will be able to use it so please play fair.

Entry #1 - Leave a comment below after you have verified there is a store near you.

Entry #2 - Leave an additional comment to let me know you tweeted about this give away.

Entry #3 - Leave an additional comment to let me know you have blogged about this give away.

That's a chance for three entries. The winner will be chosen randomly on Monday, March 15th.

Gift card generously provided by the Kroger Family of Stores and General Mills through MyBlogSpark.