Monday, May 23, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Meatball Recipe, The Sequel

Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means the premier of summer blockbusters. And as a mom of two young kids, I will be watching them over the winter months. On my couch. Once they've hit cable. Sigh. Anyway, this post is not about the movie-going habits of this poor sap, but my continued quest to find the perfect meatball recipe.

As I mentioned in the prequel post "In Search of the Perfect Meatball Recipe", we've tried almost every meat combination and cooking technique for making these orbs of ground meat goodness. But there was one recipe that I've been dying to try - Polpette alla Napoletana by Mario Batali. It has all the makings of a great meatball - simple ingredients and traditional preparation. What peaked my interest was his technique for adding toasted pine nuts.  The result - a lush, crunchy, buttery surprise in each bite.

According to umdaddy, this was the end to any movie franchise on this topic. He claimed it to be the best meatball ever. Both boys devoured them. And my favorite -- my oldest shouting with excitement that he never knew there were "seeds" in meatballs and wanted to plant a meatball tree in the yard. If only my boy. If only.

The Good: well-balanced flavors. Pine nuts add a crunch and rich component.

The Bad: these bad boys did not hold up too well. I'm guessing I did not wring out enough moisture from the bread.

Grade: A-. We would've given it an A+ (or if we're sticking to the movie analogy, two thumbs up) if it hadn't been the fact it did not keep its shape or hold up well.

Click here for the  Polpette alla Napoletana by Mario Batali. (You'll be glad you did)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chopsticks: Picky-Eater's Best Friend?

Fact: kids can be picky eaters (I know plenty of adults who are picky eaters too). That hasn't stopped me from introducing my boys to a wide range of flavors. I'm a true believer that we don't need to dumb-down a dish in order for our kids to eat it. We'll go out for dim sum one day, pork tenderloin with rhubarb chutney the next, followed by paella. I'm not going to say my kids eat everything ('cause they don't).  But they will almost always try whatever we put in front of them. And more often than not, they are pleasantly surprised it is something they like. 

I was particularly excited to see "Little people, big palates," a recent article on about raising adventurous eaters. Reading this article got me thinking about my own family's dining habits and steps we've taken to avoid becoming a "short-order cook" to my kids (it's enough that I am their personal nose-wiper-chauffeur-butt-wiping-assistant). I have to agree with many of the tips listed in this article:
  • Introduce new foods often - I'm always trying new recipes/dishes almost every day
  • Start them young - chop up your food for little ones (your knife skills will improve dramatically)
  • Don't give up - experts suggest it takes more than 20 times before your kid determines if he/she really likes something
But I do have one 'ace up my sleeve' that has curbed picky-eater syndrome at our house. Chopsticks. The kids love the challenge of using them to pickup morsels of food - from tofu to cheerios to broccoli. There are plenty of kid chopsticks and training chopsticks out there. But then I came across Edison Chopsticks at my last shopping trip to Hmart. They are Ah-mazing. Made for leftys and right-handed eaters, they have finger guides for instant proper positioning (that can be removed once they get a hang of it). They are super cute. Easy-to-clean. Even my two-year old got a hang of them after the first try.

I'm not making any guarantees these chopsticks will make your kids clean their plates of tofu and spinach. But it will make for some laughs... and maybe a bit of a mess the first couple of times. The last food for thought is not to make meal times a battle. We all know how willful some kids can be. And trust me, sometimes a battle of the wills is not worth a piece of broccoli.

What are some other tips/advice you have for parents to curb picky-eater syndrome?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thank You Teachers (and Icing in a Tube)! And my 1st Giveaway!

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week (I know, shouldn't every week be teacher appreciation week?). Parents of my son's elementary school were asked to show their gratitude by bringing in some food for a teacher luncheon. Kindergarten was in charge of dessert. Sigh. Couldn't Kindergarten be in charge of bringing in a killer bouillabaisse or tagine? That I could do. Bake? Not so much.

As luck would have it, I was the lucky recipient of these to try:

From the makers of dessert decorating icons Betty Crocker and Cake Mate, Signature Brands recently launched a new line of easy-squeeze decorating icing. There is Oreo Ultimate Icing made with real Oreos and S'mores Dessert Icing made with genuine Hershey's cocoa. The squeezable pouch is supposed to make it easy for anyone (even me) to pipe icing on a treat.

So I decided to bake chocolate cupcakes from scratch topped with these bad boys for my son's teachers. I had my boys help bake the cupcake using the chocolate cupcake recipe from our Flour cookbook. Thanks to Joanne Chang's easy-to-follow recipes, it was surprisingly fun and not too difficult. The boys and I could not help ourselves from having little tastes of the batter off the whisk. God was it good.

Next I had my Kindergartner help frost the cupcakes. He had no problems with the squeezable pouch (or eating straight icing for that matter).

The verdict? They were pretty tasty. I kept on thinking I was eating the creme filling of an Oreo. And who can deny that stuff is good?

No. They don't come close to a butter cream frosting from scratch from the likes of Mix Bakery or Party Favors. But if you're short on time or lack the baking chops like me, these are convenient and the kids love them.

***The giveaway is now closed.
Congrats Kelly and happy baking!***
>>Now for the fun part: my very first GIVEAWAY! Signature Brands is offering one lucky umommy reader a chance to win this:

Included in this gift pack: ingredients and recipe cards to make S'mores Whoopie Pies and OREO Brownie Bites, cupcake liners, frosting tips, a wooden spoon and a spatula.

To enter, leave a comment on what you would make with this icing by Friday, May 13th at 11:59pm EST. A winner will be selected at random by Good luck!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I was given Signature Brand Icing in exchange for sharing information with my readers. Opinions are my own.


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