Foodie Friday: Chocolate Lava Love

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I mentioned before Christmas that my kids were getting a monthly subscription to a cooking box/kit. Each month they receive a box that contains 3 kid-friendly recipes, a grocery shopping card, and directions for several little activities. Each box also contains a kid-sized cooking tool. The February box had recipes for chocolate lava cakes, roasted root vegetables, and a chicken dish. Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday, which is our regularly scheduled dessert night, so the girls and I made the chocolate lava cakes. Let me tell you, they had so much fun. The only tasks the little girls could not handle were separating the eggs and pulling the cakes out of the oven. They are just not tall enough to handle this. The kit did include a trick for separating eggs that I will share, but we didn’t have a bottle that would work so I just did that part for them.

Here’s the recipe (source: http://www.kidstir.com):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate (squares or chips)
  • 1 C powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C flour
  • berries for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Spray 4 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave (1-1.5 minutes) and whisk until smooth.
  3. Whisk in powdered sugar, then whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Add vanilla, then whisk in the flour until it disappears.
  4. Carefully divide the batter between the 4 ramekins. Bake 13-14 minutes or until the sides look firm and the center is soft.
  5. Serve in the ramekins or carefully turn the cakes out onto a dessert plate.
  6. Garnish with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and berries if desired.

I had my little girls cut out their favorite shapes to use as a stencil when we sprinkled the powdered sugar. My 8-year-old cut out a heart and a diamond shape. My 4-year-old cut out a rectangle. IMG_0625

I was surprised how easily the cakes came out of the little ramekins onto my dessert plates. This is a great recipe! If I had one little tweak, it would be the addition of a little pinch of salt.

Here is the egg separating trick. Disclaimer- we did not try this, so I can’t vouch for it’s effectiveness.

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If you’re interested in nutrition facts, here they are:chocolate lava cake nutrition

Kids in the Kitchen

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Amelia, age 18 months, watching her Great-Granddad cook lunch

Do you let your kids help when you’re cooking dinner? It is so important for children to be in the kitchen with you. From a very young age, our littles can begin learning to cook by simply watching us prepare their meals and snacks. I do not remember a time when I wasn’t watching my mom (or sometimes dad) cook. I don’t really remember learning to cook, because it has been a lifelong process. Being a mom of young children, I realize that it is sometimes scary to have the kids in the kitchen. It feels dangerous with the hot, steaming pots and popping oil but there are some safe ways to engage young chefs.

 

2-4 year olds can:

  • stir wet or dry ingredients
  • pour pre-measured ingredients into the bowl or pan
  • dump out canned foods into bowl or pan
  • wipe up small messes (because cleaning up is part of cooking)

4-6 year olds can do all of the above plus:

  • open cans using an electric or manual can opener
  • measure dry ingredients
  • crack eggs
  • set the table

7-9 year olds can do all of the above plus:

  • scramble eggs
  • stir food while it is heating on the stove
  • use the oven with supervision
  • measure wet ingredients (I left this for an older age because milk jugs are heavy, some kids could measure some wet ingredients earlier than 7 years)
  • load/unload dishwasher
  • hand-wash mixing bowls and other dishes- be careful of knives!

And you can keep this progression going throughout adolescence. You can decide when it is appropriate for your children to use knives, but remember that it is important for them to learn. Teach them to do it correctly and safely or you may end up with a young adult child who still cannot prepare their own meals!

QuickTip Tuesday: Healthy Valentine’s Day

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Many people celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special meal at home or a dinner out at a restaurant. And many people eat way too many calories and way too much fat during these meals. To keep yourself on the right track, order a smaller portion (or only eat half of what is served to you). Eat red foods- Red bell peppers, radicchio, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes, for example, are all packed with vitamins, antioxidants or  fiber.

Saving for an Emergency Fund

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What do you do when, out of the blue, your car’s transmission bites the dust? Or the refrigerator dies?  Or you break a tooth? When you have a real financial emergency, where does the money come from to cover the unexpected expenses?

Perhaps you turn to credit cards, which may carry high interest rates and a balance that requires several months to pay it off.

There is a better way. A savings account specifically dedicated to emergencies can solve this problem.

How much of a reserve should you keep in this account? Some financial experts recommend $1,000 while others suggest three to six months of living expenses, in case of unemployment. If you are just starting out, try to quickly build up to $1,000, then keep adding until the total seems realistic for you.

There are several ways to save. One is to make regular deposits into the account. Of course, the more you deposit each month, the faster the total will grow, but you can begin with a modest amount such as $10 or $20.

Another strategy is to set up automatic deposits through your bank. Just remember to record the amount in your check register to avoid overdrawing your checking account.

Any extra money you make could go into this account. Gifts of money, funds earned from extra jobs like babysitting or house cleaning, overtime pay, tax refunds, rebates from purchases are all possible ways to boost that emergency fund faster. You also can save all your loose change in a jar. When the jar is full, roll the coins and deposit them into the account. If you are really dedicated, cut out certain purchases you regularly make, such as a mid- morning coffee or an afternoon soft drink, and deposit that extra money into your emergency fund.

With time, your fund will grow. If you save $50 a month you will have $600 at the end of a year. In five years, with no withdrawals, you will have $3,000 to fall back on when an emergency strikes, and won’t it feel great to have the money to pay for the unexpected expense?

For ideas on saving for an emergency fund, contact the county Extension office.

QuickTip Tuesday: February Home Cleaning Tip

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February… that time in our lives when we are all tired of winter, but it’s still cold outside. Our windows have been shut for some time and we’ve been running electric or gas heaters for quite a few weeks now. It’s a good time to do something nice for your home. To keep the air in your house clean and fresh, even in the winter, this is a great time to vacuum/clean your curtains and window blinds as well as dust all the fan blades. These are chores that are commonly overlooked but can make a big difference in your indoor air quality!

Foodie Friday: Food Safety for Super Bowl Parties

Check out this post from the CDC on gameday food safety:

Tackling a buffet at your game day gathering? Practice these game rules and keep the runs on the field.

Make sure your game day gathering is memorable for all the right reasons! Follow these six tips to avoid food poisoning:

1. Keep it clean.

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets.
  • Wash your cutting boards,External dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water – even if you do not plan to eat the peel – so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut.
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    2. Cook it well.

    • Cooking food to the proper temperature gets rid of harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to checkExternal meat and microwavedExternal dishes on your menu.
      • Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry) reach a minimum internal temperatureExternal of 165°F and that ground beef items reach 160°F.
      • Follow frozen food package cooking directions when cooking in microwave.

        3. Keep it safe.

        • If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containersExternaland store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling.
        • Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
        • Keep cold foods, like salsa and guacamole, at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.
        • Getting takeout or delivery? Cdc-pdf[PDF – 228 KB]External Make sure to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.
          • Divide large pots of food, such as soups or stews, and large cuts of meats, such as roasts or whole poultry, into small quantities for refrigeration to allow them to cool quickly and minimize time in the temperature “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.

        4. Watch the time.

        • Follow recommended cooking and standing timesExternal.
          • “Cold spots”—areas that are not completely cooked—can harbor germs.
          • Always follow directions for the “standing time”— the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.
        • Track the time that food stays on the buffet.
          • Throw away any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature for two hours or more.

        5. Avoid mix-ups.

        • SeparateExternal raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods.
          • Make sure to use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
        • Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.
      • 6. Store and reheat leftovers the right way.

        • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
        • Refrigerate leftover foods at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
        • RefrigerateExternal leftovers for three to four days at most. FreezeExternal leftovers if you won’t be eating them soon.
        • Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.
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