Thursday, January 29, 2015

9 Tips to Turn a Dish of Pasta Into Something Fun

Every kid loves pasta. They may be more picky when it comes to vegetables, but they can rarely refuse a good plate of spaghetti carbonara or macaroni bolognese. Nevertheless, kids usually get bored of the same routine or lack of imagination with their meals. Here are some ways to add a spark of imagination to a pasta dish to provide nutritious, healthy and creative meals.

1) True Colors.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is life beyond the classic macaroni necklace painted with markers! A good idea is to dye them with their favorite color and then... eat them all! To do this, you need to add a tablespoon of food coloring into the boiling water before you put the pasta in. When it boils, you can add the spaghetti, fusilli, penne or farfale, and you will notice, slowly, how they begin to change color. Finally, you will have a colorful plate of pasta and a big smile on your kid’s face.

2) Spaghetti Mane.

This is a simple way to get your kids to finish their entire plate. Take some hot dogs, cut them in half and prick raw spaghetti in one end of each. Cook them in plenty of water until the pasta is ready. When you strain it, you will have cool “lions” with a noodle mane. You can even paint their eyes with mayonnaise and a mouth with ketchup to achieve the full effect.

Funny Face Pasta

3) A Nest of Hungry Birds.

To make a real nest of hungry birds, you need spaghetti and some good homemade meatballs. Boil the pasta and then make a circle around the center of the plate with all the noodles and place two meatballs dipped in tomato sauce in the center. Cut a couple triangles of cheddar cheese to make the beak. You can use circles of boiled egg or black olives to make the eyes. To give the feeling that they are standing on a tree branch, we can put a sprig of celery underneath.

4) Clowning Around.

For those children who love goofing around and magic you can create a small clown on their plate! Using colored spirals can make the clown hair. When serving, place the cooked pasta in a half circle around the edge of the plate, then you can use a halved cherry tomato for the clown nose, green olives for the eyes and their favorite pasta sauce to “draw” the mouth and ears. You can also prepare some extra bow tie pasta for the clown’s bow!

5) On Wheels.

‘Rotelle’ are small pieces of pasta that look like wheels. The fun possibilities with this pasta are endless: from bikes (where green asparagus are the handlebars and frame) to trains where a slice of cheese may be the car. The power of imagination is endless!

6) Bringing the Field to the Plate.

You can use green pasta (‘tagliatelle’, for instance) and boil it. That will be the grass. Broccoli can be used for the trees, the yolk of a fried egg will be a perfect sun, and some fresh cheese cut skillfully will become clouds. If you want a complete meal, you can ask your little gardener to 'water it' with extra virgin olive oil. Delicious, beautiful and very healthy!

7) Lasagna Cupcakes.

Is there anything tastier than cupcakes to children? In this case, we will make cupcakes for dinner. How? To make it, all you have to do is put the pasta in muffin tins, then put it in the oven filled with ground beef and bechamel sauce. Bake and... Mmmm, delicious Italian cupcakes!

8) Find the Treasure.

‘Conchiglie’ or pasta shells are great helpers to turn a meal into a game. You just have to put them face down and ask the kids to find something you have hidden under one of them (a pea, corn kernel, carrot chunk)... Before you notice, they’ll have eaten the whole plate. Just do not forget to have something planned when he/she can claim as their treasure. A chocolate dessert, perhaps?

9) Use Cartoons.

If everything else fails, you can always try that scene with the spaghetti and the meatballs from the Disney movie ‘Lady and the Tramp’, or insist on the fact that Garfield is a true fan of lasagna, or even remind them of Super Mario’s Italian heritage who, of course, loves spaghetti. Buon Appetito!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Balsamic Marinated Chicken

Looking for a fast, but flavorful meal? Try this recipe for marinated chicken that includes balsamic vinegar with garlic and Italian seasonings. Serve with a side of your favorite vegetables, pasta or rice.
Balsamic Marinated Chicken
Balsamic Marinated Chicken 

Serving Size: 4     Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes (including 1 hour marinating time) 


  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Place chicken in a shallow dish or 1-gallon sealable plastic bag. Add the marinade and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. Remove from the marinade.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  4. Oil the grill rack. Grill the chicken 4 to 8 minutes per side, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F .
This mouth watering recipe was inspired by a recipe from Eating Well.
    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Cinnamon Loaf Cake Recipe

    The holidays may be over, but we are still craving baked goods to go with our coffee and tea. This Cinnamon Loaf Cake was so simple and quite possibly one of the tastiest cakes we have made.

    Cinnamon Loaf Cake Recipe
    Prep: 15 min.
    Bake: 55 min. + cooling
    Makes:  1 loaf

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour (we used a gluten-free flour and it came out fantastic)
    • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
    • 3 tsp baking powder
    • 3-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
    • 1-1/4 tsp salt
    •  1/3 cup STAR Butter Flavored Olive Oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp butter, melted

    Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pan.

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and salt.

    In a second large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Then stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

    Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan.

    In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon; stir in butter. Add half of this mixture to the batter in the pan and cut through batter with a knife to swirl the topping. Add the rest of the batter on top and repeat.

    Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
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