Puff cups with mango yogurt

Get cooking with kids: part 5

Originally appeared in the March 29, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”—it’s a noble lesson that many parents try to instill in their children; but putting this concept into practice proves to be quite difficult when it comes to food.

For this final installment in our little series geared toward little-ones, I thought it appropriate to offer a dessert.  I entertained several notions before settling on the idea that kids love pudding; and though my mind briefly landed on some sort of custard, I instantly thought about the caloric content and decided to drop it.  Then I realized: it’s all about how you dress it up.

Leaving the knife-work to the grownups (along with extraction of the lighting-hot sheetpan from the oven), the remainder of the procedure is kid-friendly.  You can find puff pastry—a flaky dough that contains many striated layers of butter—in the freezer sections of local grocery chains, and kids enjoy using round cutters to cut-out the shapes.  Though I’ve recommended using mango as the fruit component, it really your call.  The possibilities aren’t necessarily endless, but they’re mind-numbingly abundant.  You don’t have to change the book, but you can certainly change the rules.


Puff cups with mango yogurt

Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • As needed, 1 large egg broken and scrambled (for eggwash)
  • 1 ½ cups low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons zero calorie sugar substitute
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried mango (or fruit of choice)

1.  Preheat standard oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, prepare eggwash in a bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine yogurt, sugar substitute, and chopped fruit; reserve in fridge.  Using a large circle cutter or biscuit cutter, cut a circle shape from the dough and place on a parchment-lined sheeptan.  Do one for each cup.  Now, use the same cutter to cut another set (you should have two sets now); and this time, using a slightly smaller cutter, cut another circle.  So what you should have are a set of solid round discs, and a set of donut-shaped discs.

2.  Brush a bit of eggwash around the sides of the solid disc, and set the dough with the hole in it on top.  What will happen is the top portion will puff up, leaving a small cavity for the filling.  Brush top of puff pastry with remaining eggwash, and place in the oven.  Allow to puff up to golden brown (about 10 – 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling with flavored yogurt.

Published in: on March 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Turkey mantou burgers with parmesan wafer

Get cooking with kids: part 4

Originally appeared in the March 22, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

For this fourth installment in this kid-centric series, I had my mind set on some sort of sandwich.  And to avoid the same old, same old, I set my sights on introducing the little ones to a unique sort of bread—mantou.

You likely won’t find this at your local market, so it will take an investigative trek to an international market.  But like so many of these little adventures, it’s unceasingly rewarding.  Mantou is a yeast-leavened bun, similar to bao (pronounced bow), a sort of stuffed bread popular in Chinese cuisine.  The buns are usually steamed, producing a delicate dough yielding an enjoyably chewy texture, and its fermented flavor is mildly sweet.

In the midst of your gastronomic quest, steer toward the freezer section of the store, where you’ll find a host of frozen rolls and doughs—of both the stuffed and plain varieties.

The turkey is, of course, lean, so I’ve added in a little hoisin sauce as both binder and flavor component.  And I won’t even get into the host of toppings you can pair with these burgers—the sky’s the limit.  Combined, these elements create a kid-friendly sandwich that’s predictable enough to be pleasing, while abnormal enough to be enticing.


Turkey mantou burger with parmesan wafer

Makes 2 sandwiches

  • 8 ounces ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • To taste, salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 plain mantou or bao buns
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • As needed, all-purpose flour

1.  Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine 8 ounces of turkey with hoisin sauce.  Add a small amount of kosher salt and pepper.  Divide meat into 2 portions, and shape portions into patties.  In an oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a small amount of canola oil.  When heated, add patties one at a time, searing to golden brown color, reserving the cooked one on a plate.  When patties are cooked, put back in pan and place pan in oven to finish cooking (12 -15 minutes).

2.  Meanwhile, place mantou buns in a large freezer bag; seal halfway, allowing an open portion to release steam; cook for 30 – 40 seconds, or until buns have softened.  Set aside.

3.  Now make parmesan wafer: In a small bowl, combine parmesan with just enough flour (a few sprinkles) to coat the cheese.  Using a non-stick sauté pan, place half the parm mixture flat in the center, making a wafer-thin disc.  When wafer has started to get crispy (about 40 – 60 seconds) flip with a spatula.  Set wafer aside.

4.  Slice mantou buns and proceed to assemble sandwiches—turkey patty, parmesan wafer, and choice of toppings.



Cornflake-crusted chicken tenders

Get cooking with kids: Part 3

Originally appeared in the March 15, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.


Often, the crispy chicken tenders encountered on the appetizer menu are the same ones appearing in the kids section.  No big deal, really, unless you consider 1) the cooking method, and 2) the (pre-frozen) product itself—the former, more often than not, being deep frying; and the latter, by and large, containing more breading than actual nourishing protein.

Aside from the actual craft of culinary arts, I’m reluctant to flex too much didactic muscle in these little conversations, and I’m downright squeamish when it comes to overtly telling people what (or what not) to feed their kids.  Yet—save for financial constraints—it truly takes very few adjustments to deviate from ingrained pejorative food choices.  Sure, some of it has to do with portion control; but it also has to do with manipulation of technique and being downright crafty with your ingredients.  This week’s recipe is a worthwhile example.

With regards to the aforementioned cooing method, these tenders are baked—the elimination of deep-fat frying, it goes without saying, is a good thing for kids—while the breading has been traded out for crushed cornflakes.  I would have come up with a more inventive title, but “Cereal fingers” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Cornflake-crusted chicken tenders

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 pound free-range chicken breast tenders
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large, free-range eggs, whisked till smooth
  • 4 cups cornflake cereal, crushed in a large, plastic freezer bag
  • As needed, dipping sauce(s) of choice

1.  Preheat conventional oven to 400 degrees.  Place a portion of aluminum foil on a sheetpan, and apply a light coating of nonstick cooking spray.  Using three medium-sized bowls or dishes, set up a three-step breading station: first container combine flour and cornstarch, incorporating together evenly; in the next container add whisked eggs; and in the third dish, pour in crushed cornflakes.

2.  In small batches, place chicken tenders in flour mixture.  Shaking off excess flour, add tenders into egg, and then place in crushed cornflakes, pressing the meat into the cereal.  Gently place the crusted tenders on foiled-lined sheetpans.  Once all tenders are on sheeptan, place in 400 degree oven.

3.  Cook tenders for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and chicken is firm when pressed.  Remove from oven; serve with dipping sauces of choice.

Personal pizza

Get cooking with kids:  part 2

Jackson Baker shows off his pizza

Get ready to clear off some counter space, preheat your oven, and roll up your sleeves—it’s time to make homemade pizza.  Kids are uniquely qualified for this task, as it offers not only the opportunity to play with their food (during the kneading and shaping stages, that is), but a chance to be creative with their choice of toppings, making this personal pizza all the more unique for the little ones.

Encourage patience here, because the dough, like most yeast-leavened products, needs to proof.  The meaning of the term “proof” is derived from the actual evidence (or “proof”) needed to ensure the yeast has survived the preparation process.  In our case, making sure the dough has doubled in size while its rests will be proof enough for us.

Like most of these kid-friendly recipes, this week’s installment offers an ideal opportunity to perform a little culinary guidance.  Selecting toppings—either minimal or complicated—is a bunch of fun.  Plus there are lots of healthy substitutions to play around with.  And as far as spinning discs of pizza dough in the air, well…I’ll leave that up to you.

Personal pizza

Depending on preferred thickness, yields one 7″- 8″ pizza

  • ½ fluid ounce warm water (approximately 110º F.)
  • ¼ tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup bread flour (plus more for kneading)
  • 1 pinch iodized salt
  • 2 ½ fluid ounces cold water
  • ¼ tablespoon olive oil
  • As needed, cornmeal
  • As needed, prepared tomato sauce
  • As needed, shredded mozzarella
  • As needed, toppings of choice

1.  Preheat conventional oven to 450 º F.  In a small bowl, combine warm water, yeast, sugar, and whisk until yeast has dissolved.  Set yeast mixture aside.  In the mixer bowl of an electric mixer, with dough hook attachment, combine ¾ cup of the bread flour and salt.  Add in the yeast mixture.  Add in cold portion water and olive oil.  (Only add remaining ¼ cup of bread flour if dough is too sticky).  Mix on low until a solid ball is formed; knead on medium for 5 – 6 minutes.

2.  Remove dough from mixing bowl and knead on a floured work station for an additional 5 minutes (this will develop gluten).  Place dough in a lightly oiled prep bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in a warm location until dough has doubled in size.

3.  Remove dough from bowl and punch down on lightly floured work station.  On a parchment-lined ½ sheetpan, sprinkle a few small pinches of cornmeal.  Place dough on sheetpan and shape into a disk, approximately 7″-8″ in diameter.  Lightly re-cover dough, and place back in warm spot for second rise (dough should double once again).  Brush on some olive oil around the circumference of the outer crust.  Ladle a conservative amount of tomato sauce in center of pizza, and swirl to outer edge of oiled crust.  Add toppings mozzarella and toppings of choice.  Bake pizza at 450 º F. until bottom crust is crispy and cheese is melted.