Monday, July 19, 2021

Fun and healthy after-school snacks


When I was a kid, one of my favorite parts about finishing the school day was getting an after-school snack. I usually just had fruit or vegetables or some type of granola bar, but sometimes I went home with a friend from school and raided their pantries for "the good stuff." I'm talking Dunkaroos, Fruit by the Foot, and the holy grail, Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. Obviously, I know now the reason my mom never purchased those snacks was because they aren't very healthy, but no one can deny they certainly are tasty!

Food presentation is very important when kids are deciding what to eat. Bright colors, fun shapes, and familiarity are often the biggest factors when it comes to their willingness to try foods. That's why I wanted to transform some of my favorite healthy snacks into creative creations.

Hummus has become a fairly popular snack in recent years, and for good reason—it's packed with protein, iron, potassium, and plant fiber. But did you know with a little red cabbage and some baking soda, you can turn your favorite hummus blue? That's because red cabbage is a pH indicator and turns blue in a basic environment (hence the baking soda in the recipe). The key is you cannot use any lemon juice or other acid in the hummus because then it won't work. I added an orange bell pepper, candy eyeballs, and carrot slice "tentacles" to the hummus bowl to make it look like an octopus in the ocean.

Guacamole is another great snack. Avocados have lots of healthy fats and fiber to refuel kids' energy levels and keep them satisfied until dinner. But instead of serving the guacamole in a bowl, put it back in the avocado skin and use cucumbers, candy eyes, and carrot sticks to make it look like a crocodile!


Octopus hummus (Octomus)

Yield: Makes about 1 cup hummus

Ingredients

For the hummus

  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) tahini, stirred
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) chopped red cabbage, boiled 1 minute
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 milliliters) cold water

For the octopus

  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 candy eyeballs

Directions

For the hummus

  1. Add tahini to bowl of food processor and run for 1 minute until tahini is lighter in color. And more creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, olive oil, salt, and black pepper to the food processor, and process for another minute until well-blended.
  3. Add half the chickpeas and process for 1 minute before scraping the bowl, adding the other half of the chickpeas, and processing for another minute.
  4. Add the red cabbage and the baking soda to the bowl and process for another minute.
  5. With food processor on, slowly add water until hummus reaches smooth consistency.

For the octopus

  1. Turn pepper on its side and cut about 1/2 inch below the stem. Use a paring knife to cut out the seeds and the pith from the inside.
  2. Slice carrot into thin circles.

Assembly

  1. Transfer hummus to large, shallow bowl or deep dish plate.
  2. Place pepper in center and use carrot slices to create 8 tentacles stretching from the pepper to the edge of the plate. Arrange the wider slices so they are closest to the pepper, and the slices should progressively get smaller as they get closer to the edge of the plate. 
  3. Spread a dab of nut butter or honey on the back of each eyeball and stick on the pepper.
  4. Serve with vegetables and crackers.

Crocodile guacamole (Guacadiles)

Yield: Makes 4 “guacadiles,” or the equivalent of 2 cups of guacamole

Ingredients

For the guacamole

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, no seeds, finely chopped

For the crocodiles

  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots, cut in thirds
  • 8 cucumber slices, not peeled
  • 8 candy eyeballs

Directions

  1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Save the avocado skin and set aside.
  2. Scoop the flesh of the avocados out of the rind and place in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour lime juice and salt in bowl with avocados.
  4. Mash it all together until just combined (don’t over mix!)
  5. Fold in the red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño and mix well.
  6. Taste the guacamole and adjust seasoning if necessary.

For assembly

  1. Place 1/4 of guacamole back into each of the 4 avocado skins
  2. Add 2 cucumber slices sticking straight up at the back of the wider portion of the avocado. Repeat for each of the 4 avocado skins.
  3. Stick 1 candy eyeball in front of each cucumber slice.
  4. Arrange carrots around inside edge of avocado skins.
  5. Serve with vegetables and chips.



Friday, July 16, 2021

Healthier Pastitsio

This is a sponsored post by Dishtory, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

My Yiayia and my mom were the biggest influences in my life in regards to developing my passion for cooking. I spent many hours learning from them in the kitchen and watching them construct baklava, spanakopita, tiropita, and other incredible Greek dishes. They didn’t even need to look at a recipe. I joined the fun when I was a bit older, making sure to pay close attention to their idiosyncrasies.

Later in life, I asked my mom to send me one of Yiayia’s recipes. The recipe she sent me was written in Greek. And then once I translated it, I realized it only had very basic directions—it didn’t include all of the tips and tricks Yiayia showed me when we made it together. I called her to ask about it, and it was only until she explained it to me over the phone that I remembered how to make the recipe.

Most people can follow directions, but oftentimes, there’s a lot more that goes into a dish than what is written in the recipe. That’s why Dishtory is such a great concept. The app allows users to record, save and share recipes in their own voice so they can create, plate and curate home-cooked creations with people who matter most. Unlike written recipe cards, the audio heirlooms cooked up on Dishtory exist in perpetuity, can be shared instantaneously, and bring the voice of a distant, departed or disconnected one to life. 

I recently used the app to share a “lightened-up” version of one of my family’s favorite recipes, pastitsio. Often described as Greek lasagna, the dish is traditionally very heavy with ground beef and a rich béchamel sauce. The lighter version I created uses mushrooms instead of meat, and I used a Greek yogurt topping in place of the béchamel sauce.

My mom was skeptical of the recipe, so I asked her to make it with me. I wanted Yiayia to come over as well, but unfortunately she is unable to travel due to restrictions at her assisted living facility.

This photo shows Yiayia and my mom making baklava in 2017.

Replacing ground beef with mushrooms is a fairly new food trend, but there are certain steps you need to take when making the substitution. For example, mushrooms are 90% water, so before using them in a recipe, you need to cook them down to the point that all the water evaporates from the mushrooms. If you don’t evaporate all the water, your dish will be soupy. It took about an hour of cooking the mushrooms on the stove before the water was all evaporated. I explained that to my mom when we were cooking together, and I also recorded that info in the Dishtory app so she can listen back to it without me.

Dishtory’s simple, easy-to-use interface allows users of all ages and life stages to quickly navigate and create their audio recipes for posterity—no complicated instructions or tutorials required! You can record a recipe and upload a picture within the app, or you can upload sound and images from your phone’s library. And if you’re not comfortable sharing your recipe with anyone else, there’s an option to keep it private.

Also, you can search for recipes in the app by either the username or the recipe name. After discovering a new recipe you’re interested in, save it in your “recipe book” in the app for easy access.

Even though Yiayia wasn’t with us to make this recipe, I shared the recording with her. I know it warmed her heart to see that her passion for cooking and Greek food lives inside me.


Healthier Pastitsio

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds baby Bella or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 yellow onions, small dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1, 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the pasta

  • 14 ounces bucatini pasta
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

For the topping

  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Kefalotyri Greek cheese, grated (can substitute romano or parmesan)

Directions

For the sauce

  1. Pulse mushrooms in food processor until they resemble ground meat.
  2. Cook mushrooms in deep skillet until all water is released and evaporates.This may take up to an hour.
  3. Once water evaporates, add onion. Cook on low until onions become soft and translucent.
  4. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until mixed in, about a minute.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, red wine, salt, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, and bay leaves.
  6. Bring to boil, reduce to gentle simmer. Cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour to allow flavors to develop. Stir occasionally. Sauce should be very thick. If it isn’t thick enough, cook uncovered another 5 - 10 minutes. Set aside when done.
  7. Allow sauce to cool and stir in beaten egg.

For the pasta

  1. Cook bucatini in salted water for 8 minutes, or 1 minute short of al dente per package instructions.
  2. Allow to cool and stir in beaten egg and feta cheese.

For the topping

  1. Mix Greek yogurt with beaten eggs, salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.

For assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Spray 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Spread pasta in even layer in baking dish.
  4. Spread sauce in even layer over pasta.
  5. Spread topping in even layer over sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top
  6. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping turns golden. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


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