Wednesday, May 20, 2015

4 No-Bake Desserts to Make with Kids

There’s almost nothing kids like better than taking over the kitchen and experimenting with different ingredients, textures, colors, smells and flavors. And it’s a great activity, even if we can’t help wondering what state the kitchen will be in when they’ve finished. Children find cooking just as relaxing as we do and it’s also an excellent way for them to get used to different foods, find their way around the kitchen, spend time with the family, socialize and, at the end of the day, play. All the while they are learning and not even realizing it!

Cooking with kids is a highly stimulating experience—quality time they’ll probably remember into their adulthood. As always with children, we’ll fill the kitchen with color and bring recipes to life that they can eat later on, while attempting to keep their clothes and faces clean but in the end, who cares? Here are four “cooking-less” recipes to get kids “cooking” that you can eat later on as a family for afternoon snack. If they leave anything for you, that is…  

Check out our Pinterest Board that has tons of recipes for not only no-bake desserts but also fun afternoon snacks and easy to prep lunches!

1) Cake pops. If you’ve got young children, you’re probably already familiar with this kind of lollipop, as you might well have seen a demonstration or workshop at one event or another. Kids love creating these impressive sugar-coated balls on a stick using all different kinds of ingredients—from bread to chocolate cookies. There are several different ways of making a cake pop. We suggest crumbling up some cookies and mixing them with cream cheese spread (one small spoonful of spread and one cookie per cake pop). All you have to do is make an even ball, cover it with cooking chocolate melted in the microwave and, if you fancy, sprinkle with hundreds and thousands. Spear with a stick and you’re good to go. Enjoy your stylish new cake pops while they last!
No Bake Desserts to Make With Kids
No-Bake Desserts to Make with Kids

2) Mug cakes. Your kids will love making these mug cakes as much as they’ll enjoy eating them. Mug cakes are basically sponge cakes with as many extra ingredients as you like, but made in a mug and cooked in the microwave, without any need for an oven. There are lots of different recipes, but chocolate is always a hit and kids love being able to make their own creations without any help from grownups (who can just keep a quiet eye on things). And they can then eat their cake straight out of their favorite mug. Mugs cakes really are very easy to make: simply mix all the ingredients together in a mug and microwave for a few minutes. There are a thousand and one recipes with nuts, berries, etc—try them out until you find the one you (or rather they…) like best.

3) Mousses and custards. Some people make mousses and custards in the oven, but you don’t have to because there are plenty of recipes that are no bake. Vanilla or chocolate custard, fruit or lemon mousse… the possibilities are endless and family afternoons very long. Where shall we start?

4) Milkshakes and smoothies. This is where things start to get a bit harder: it’s not as easy to get kids excited about mangoes, raspberries, pears and the like as it is with chocolate and cookies. Smoothies—which have become all the rage thanks to their many wonderful properties—are both a great source of nutrients and an ideal way to get kids to eat fruit without realizing it. So, how about turning our kitchen into a multicolored universe of fruits of all different sizes and textures and getting our children to choose what goes in the blender? Along with ice and yogurt, you've got yourself a healthy snack for the kids who will also love pushing the buttons on the blender.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chicken Balsamic Marinade

One of the simplest ways to flavor food is to marinate it. This marinade will take your chicken from boring to inspired.

  • 1/4 cup STAR Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons STAR Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl. Combine the marinade and chicken in a large resalable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tips for an Alternative White Sauce

Making a good white sauce is something that seems simple at first, but all too often things can get complicated. The classic, and often inevitable, problem is a lumpy sauce, but it also could get too milky, too floury, have too many or too few spices or be too stodgy or too runny. The perfect white sauce exists—just never for us. The main reason why many attempts at making it at home fail is generally because the flour hasn’t cooked properly and doesn’t combine with the other ingredients, leaving a taste of flour pervading our lasagnes,
Alternative White Sauce
Alternative White Sauce
croquettes and cannelloni.

The ideal white sauce should contain about 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of butter for every 1 cup of milk (2:2:1)—you can scale the amounts up or down in the same proportions depending on what you need it for. The secret is to always sift the flour thoroughly and make a roux (thickness) with the butter. Once both ingredients have mixed together and cooked sufficiently, slowly add the milk and let the mixture cook slowly on a low heat, stirring the entire time without ever stopping.

However, there are numerous alternatives to this classic white sauce that work wonderfully in lots of dishes. They are sure to liven up our recipes and let us experiment with this lovely sauce to our heart’s content. We’ll also give you some tips for making a healthy, tasty alternative white sauce.

- Replace the full-fat milk with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. This cuts down on the calories and gives a lighter, healthier sauce.

- You can also replace the traditional flour with another kind: spelt flour, corn flour or even chickpea flour or rye flour, for example. You can also opt for wholegrain flour, which helps with digestion.

- Replacing the butter with extra-virgin olive oil is also an excellent idea, since an overbearing flavour of butter can spoil some stews. The method is exactly the same as with butter, but you mix the flour with olive oil and then slowly add the warm milk.

- People on a diet or keeping an eye on their figure don’t have to forego a lovely white sauce if they follow this effective low-calorie solution: replace the milk with a light vegetable stock, or even chicken stock. This wonderful trick is great for croquettes, since we can compensate for the extra calories we’ll inevitably be adding on when we fry them. With this version, we can experiment with different ingredients at will: a mild fish stock will be perfect for fish croquettes, whereas meat croquettes will need stock made from chicken bones or a hambone, and a vegetable lasagne will be the perfect match for a white sauce made with vegetable stock. What about the ideal white sauce for cured-ham croquettes? Although we could opt for the classic recipe, it’s worth heating the milk on a low heat with a hambone for half an hour before making it. This simple trick makes all the difference.

- White sauce with onion? Yes, please! If you poach a few onions in the oil or butter before adding the milk, you’ll give the sauce a delicious edge that will be particularly appreciated by those of us who aren’t exactly thrilled by the traditional flavour of white sauce.

- You can also replace cow’s milk with another vegetarian alternative, a highly recommendable option for everyone, although particularly for those who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk, with its strong flavor, is not the best option, but you can certainly use a rice milk with a far more delicate flavor. It’s a bit runnier than milk, so you may have to increase the amount of flour, but it will also aid digestion. Another great healthy option is oat milk, which you can make quickly and easily at home if you put your mind to it.

- Cheese fans can add their favourite cheese to their white sauce: either grated cheese that will gradually melt or pieces of low-fat cheese if you’re watching the calories.

- If you’re feeling adventurous, you could always add some curry powder at the end, and hey presto! This is the procedure you should follow in general with all spices: add all seasoning at the end. If you add it before the milk, it’s easy to muddle up the amounts. The range of spices you can use is limited only by your imagination, but we recommend a pinch of nutmeg or some cloves or black pepper.

- Cream can also work wonders in a white sauce, provided we use it wisely, bearing in mind the recipe in question. Simply replace some of the milk with an equal amount of cream to create a thicker, stronger white sauce that goes perfectly with dishes like cauliflower cheese; it’s not recommendable in dishes with lots of ingredients, such as lasagnes, which require a subtler, runnier sauce.

- What about dispensing with white sauce entirely? We could try making certain dishes without any white sauce at all—an increasingly common option in many modern recipes for lasagne, cannelloni and even croquettes. This often works just fine: there are other ways of binding ingredients together to make croquettes that don’t use any white sauce.

- One final option, which raises a few eyebrows and should certainly be used judiciously, is making white sauce with pureed tomatoes. You need to be very careful, because the tomatoes can easily swamp the flavour of the dish you’re cooking. However, you can make a truly mouth-watering baked pasta dishes with meat, vegetables and this kind of white sauce, with a gratin topping. Irresistible!

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