Sunday, December 05, 2010

Quinoa Croquettes

As researchers often say, ‘Quinoa is close to one of the most complete foods in nature because it contains amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.’  I guess I can see why the Incans referred to it as the ‘grain of the gods.’
Yes, I love quinoa -- with its nutty, somewhat toothsome bite. And, whenever I have it I just can’t get enough. Problem is, I don’t prepare it often enough.

Yes, I have one favorite quinoa recipe that I weave into my weekly menu planning over at . . .  the Quinoa with Spicy Pintos, but, for all its goodness and a taste that I love, I just haven’t added many quinoa recipes to my weekly menu.
However, one afternoon last week, when I was scavenging through my pantry and fridge to see what I could prepare for the twins (other than peanut butter and jelly), the quinoa caught my eye. It jostled a memory of an appetizing picture that recently caught my eye while thumbing through Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic, so I dug it out to see what it was all about.
Within 20 minutes, I had a delicious lunch of quinoa croquettes that I couldn’t get enough of – of course, the girls didn’t want to touch it. That’s OK, because that meant there was more for me to enjoy.
I did share, however, with Greg, when he returned from his meeting – only enough to ensure that I had some leftovers for lunch the next day. As for the twins . .  well, I caved and gave them peanut butter and jelly. Their loss.

Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup ume plum vinegar
1 small white onion, quartered (about ½ cup)
2 cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil

Quinoa Croquettes
1 cup quinoa, washed thoroughly
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on medium holes
1 small zucchini, grated on medium holes
1 scallion, finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
6 sprigs fresh parsley, stemmed and minced
1 large egg
¼ cups all-purpose flour
Grapeseed oil for cooking

To make the sauce, combine the cilantro, soy sauce, vinegar and onion in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stop the motor and add the yogurt and olive oil. Blend until creamy. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and refrigerate for at lest 1 hour.

To make the croquettes, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl to cool

When cool add the carrot, zucchini, scallion, garlic powder, salt, parsley, egg and flour. Mix well. Using your hands, form the mixture into patties about ½ inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.

Pour just enough oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, lay the quinoa cakes in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. When the cakes are golden, turn them over and cook until the second side is golden. Add additional oil as needed, and remove any brown bits that accumulate in the pan as you cook.

Remove the cakes from the pan and place them on a plate lined with a recycled brown paper bag. Serve hot, drizzled with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce. Or put the yogurt in a bowl for dipping. Top the cakes with grated carrot and zucchini.

Serves: 6 as a starter
Source: Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic, Chronicle Books

For more great recipes and articles, visit us at Family Eats.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dealing with My Garden Guilt

As I step into the backyard, it looks different. Sure, the kids are still there playing on the swings. The balls, hula hoops, and sand toys are scattered around the yard, and the weeds are overtaking the few patches of grass. But as I look to my left, the summer garden is gone. The tomatoes have been pulled, the strawberries are no longer popping up, the beanstalks and peppers are missing, and the apples have stopped falling off the tree.
But all is not lost. Lonely in the corner of the bed, the pumpkin vine still grows strong and 5 medium-sized pumpkins are still hanging on.

In the kitchen, I have pears in the freezer, one last cucumber in the crisper, and a bucket filled with green tomatoes that has yet to ripen. We have truly enjoyed the abundance from our first-ever backyard garden, but I have to admit that it has been a challenge to keep up with the bounty – to use what it produced before it went bad
To help us deal with some of our over-abundance, we filled a box with pears and left it in the teachers’ lounge. With hundreds more, we traded pears at the backyard exchange, distributed to local food shelters, made them into pear pocket pies, pear tarts, and created a delicious pear and gorgonzola pizza. Yet there, next to the door, sat a bucket of fully ripe pears beckoning me to do something with them. When I finally got around to it, I was too late, the bees took over and the pears had already become a soft mess.
The same was true for the tomatoes – We sat waiting and waiting for the tomatoes to arrive. When they did (late this season), we couldn’t keep up with them. We picked baskets full each day. I made tomato sauce, tomato soup, sautéed them up for dinner, baked and drizzled with balsamic and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Our friends looked at us wearily when we offered some beautiful heirlooms for their family, “No thanks,” they would say with an apologetic smile, “but our neighbors just gave us a bunch.”
I was determined to use them all, so I searched online for more recipes, and in an attempt to get the kids to eat more, I made a big deal at the dinner table, “Oh remember when you planted these seeds in the Spring? I guess these are your tomatoes, Keely. Go ahead, try them!”
Still it wasn’t enough.
I felt a hurt in my heart when something turned bad, because after all our effort (OK, mostly Greg’s efforts) I allowed something to rot, to mold right there on the counter, unused, and unloved.

But I still have one more chance . . . the pumpkins!

We grew some. We bought some. We carved some. We still have some.

The carved pumpkins have already melted into a pile of mold, but there remains a handful sitting on the table, keeping a bit of the Fall spirit in the home until we need to make way for our Christmas decorations.

I can’t let these pumpkins - nurtured from tiny seeds and protected from the neighborhood deer - reach the same fate that the carved ones did; the same fate that some of the tomatoes reached . . . moldy, unused and tossed in the garbage.

So, I’m ready to get cooking.

All varieties of pumpkins are edible, but the Sweet (pie) pumpkin is the one that is the most flavorful for cooking. These cooking varieties have shallower fluting and more spherical. They have thicker walls and are generally smaller than carving pumpkins. When comparing same-sized pumpkins, cooking pumpkins feel heavier than common carving pumpkins. They have a deeper flavor and added sweetness.

Cooking a pumpkin isn’t something that I often do, so I pull out my much-referred-to Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) in search of pumpkin cooking tips. Here’s what I found:

“To cook flesh, cut off stem end with a sturdy knife. Scoop out membranes and seeds with a sturdy spoon (reserve seeds for roasting). If not baking whole, but pumpkin into wedges, then peel and cut into chunks.
To cook flesh, boil or braise trimmed chunks in a small amount of water or broth, or steam trimmed chunks. Puree, if desired. Pumpkin chunks can be brushed with a vegetable oil or olive oil, then grilled.
To use as a container, scoop out the seeds and membranes. Use raw or bake on a sturdy, rimmed baking sheet at 325 degrees F until the flesh is tender.”

Yes, I know, buying canned pumpkin is so much easier, but I guess my decision to use our homegrown pumpkins to make something delicious is part of the process of alleviating some of my garden guilt.
Next year, perhaps my garden guilt therapy should include a bit of canning. Until then, I’m off to enjoy some Pumpkin and Parsley Risotto Cakes, straight from the garden.

Pumpkin and Parsley Risotto Cakes

When preparing risotto for risotto cakes, ensure the mixture is slightly drier than when you serve it as a main course. To serve traditionally, as a wet dish, increase stock by ½ cup.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups risotto rice
½ cup white wine
3 cups hot chicken stock
1 cup grated raw pumpkin, skin and seeds removed
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and ground black pepper
2 tbsp corn meal

Heat oil in a medium-sized pot. Add onion and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir in rice.

Increase heat and add wine. Allow wine to evaporate then add stock, pumpkin and a little salt. Once stock boils, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook for 15-17 minutes, stirring until rice is tender and creamy. Mix in parsley and cheese and adjust seasoning to taste.

Spoon mixture into greased muffin pans or shallow oiled tray. Flatten top evenly, scatter corn meal on top of risotto and lightly pat down. Chill for at least 5 hours.

When ready to serve take mixture out of muffin pans or, if it is on a tray, cut into small shapes. Heat oven to 400 degrees F, and brush or spray risotto cakes with a little oil. Place on an oven tray and cook for 10 minutes or pan fry for 5 minutes.

Makes about 24 cakes
Source: Savour Italy: A Discovery of Taste by Annabel Langbein, Graphic Arts Center Publishing.

For more delicious pumpkin recipes, visit Family Eats.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rethinking My Full Disclosure Policy

I’ve always been a full disclosure kind of girl. That is, when it comes to feeding my kids. I’ve been a Mom for almost 7 ½ years. And, during that time, I can count on one hand the number of times I attempted to hide a vegetable or something I wanted my kids to eat in the food I prepare for them. Needless to say, I’ve never been a fan of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook, which is filled with secrets ways of getting kids to eat good food. Why hide a carrot by pureeing it beyond recognition and then spoon-feed it to your kids? They’re unknowingly chomping it down in a sauce and never getting the opportunity to learn how to experience the different flavors and textures of foods. Sooner or later, you’ll want to stop hiding the food, and you’ll be left to fight the carrot (or whatever food) battle with them. My mantra is to let the kids know what they’re eating. Let the kids crunch on a carrot, not one hidden in a sauce. Put food on their plates, meal after meal. They may not eat it the first time, the second time, or even the tenth. But most likely, they eventually will.

However . .  today my full disclosure policy left me with half-eaten muffins scattered throughout the house (see photo at left). You see, I made Sweet Potato Muffins. To me, they were delicious. But when I answered the “What’s for snack?” question at school pick-up with full disclosure: “I just made sweet potato muffins,” I realized the kids thought differently. Their silence let me know that perhaps I was a bit too honest. My hopes were further dashed at home when I saw their faces as they grabbed the muffin and brought it cautiously to their mouths.

I do have to say, Addison gobbled them up without a complaint. Keely started to eat one, but like the other two, she quickly realized that this just wasn’t the muffin she had hoped for. They were moist, they were almost creamy in the center, just like the kids like. The problem was that those sweet potatoes weren’t in the only form my kids will eat sweet potatoes – fries.

I now sit here wondering if I hadn’t fully disclosed the muffins as ‘sweet potato’ muffins things would have been different. If I had stretched the truth and said something along the lines of “Halloween spice-flavored muffins,” would they have gobbled them ALL up. I may never know the answer to this question because my kids have a very strong food memory. If I tried to slip these muffins past them within a 2-year period, they would see through my ruse.

It’s now the morning after, and the same pile of half-eaten muffins sit on the counter, yet I’m not ready to trade in my Full Disclosure Policy for the Deceptively Delicious Policy. I will, however, be sure to add an addendum to my approach*

 * if required, use the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy.

Don’t let my kids dissuade you from trying these. I like them, Greg likes them, and Addison likes them . . . and that’s 50% of my household.

Happy baking!


Sweet Potato Muffins

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ cup light olive oil or canola oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup shredded carrot
½  cup mashed roasted Beauregard, Garnet or Jewel yams
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees G. Place paper liners in the cups of a 6-cup muffin pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In another bowl, combine the oil, sugar and egg. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla. Stir in the carrot and sweet potato. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them to the top. Sprinkle 1 tsp sesame seeds and a few pumpkin seeds over the top of each muffin.

Bake 22 to 27 minutes, until the muffins are lightly colored and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then un-mold, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 6 muffins

Source: 12 Best Foods Cookbook, by Dana Jacobi, 2005 Rodale

Monday, October 18, 2010

aka peanut butter and chocolate treats

As a native Ohioan, I can declare, “I’ve from the buckeye state.” Usually, I get blank stares when I say that, followed up with, “What the heck is a buckeye?”
It doesn’t really matter, but in short, the buckeye is a nut from a deciduous tree (of the same name) from the Horse chestnut family. That’s all you need to know.

Now, on to more important things . . . the buckeye treat.
Anyone who hails from Ohio, knows what I mean. Buckeye Balls are little chocolate and peanut butter balls that are addictive homemade versions of peanut butter cups.

They’re easy to make, and even easier to plop in your mouth.

Just be warned: They’re addictive.

Buckeye Balls, aka peanut butter and chocolate treats.

Source: a tattered recipe dug up from who-knows-where, inspired by a college friend from Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes.


1 stick butter (softened)

1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

3⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 lb powdered (confectioners) sugar

12 oz. package of semi-sweat chocolate chips

1 tbsp. butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening (vegetable shortening is preferable)

1. Combine 1 stick butter, vanilla, and peanut butter in mixing bowl. 
Continue mixing as you slowly add in the sugar 
(amount may vary  - more or less – until the mixture can be easily formed into balls without being sticky)

2. Form 1” to 2” balls with the dough and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Chill the peanut butter balls for at least 2 hours.

3. After balls have chilled, combine the shortening and semi-sheet chips into a double boiler.

4. Using a toothpick (or small skewer) pick up the peanut butter balls and dip them in the chocolate. Leave a portion of the balls un-submerged because the candy should resemble the buckeye nut (refer to pictures)

5. Place onto a greased cookie sheet, and chill until chocolate coating has hardened.

Enjoy! And, as always, join me at Family Eats, where we reconnect with the food we eat and the family we love. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Hot Potato Post
(as in, Dropped Like a, How to Play, and How to Make)

I entered, I played, I played hard, I played by the rules, I got cut. That’s the story I hear again and again from my FoodBuzz friends who participated in the 2010 Project Food Blog competition.
After I got dropped I vented, I posted. Now I find myself drawn to all those other ‘venting’ posts appearing in my inbox. A common thread within each is the feeling that we’d all been dropped like a hot potato. The email of rejection is short, curt, to the point - something along the lines of “your participation is no longer required in this contest.”
I like how Zomppa explains the feeling of participating and then being dropped like a hot potato. Here is a snippet from a recent Zomppa entry entitled,  “Dear Foodbuzz: French Apple Tart”

“And for what?  For a letter of rejection?  During this 3-week period, you did NOTHING but tell us how much you wanted us and then, BAM!?  All of the sudden, we aren’t good enough?  You get a little taste of us and then you decide we don’t suffice?  Somehow, we just don’t do it for you anymore?”

Yeah, I’m with you Zomppa.
In the moments after the arrival of the email, I felt like I had just been dumped by a boyfriend . . . given no explanation as to why we were no longer compatible, why we were no longer together, why we couldn’t continue in this relationship. After all, I did exactly as you asked. I gave back to you with all my energy and focus (I planned, I wrote, I snapped pictures, I pushed aside life-as-usual for you, I voted).

Actually, I’m  over this breakup. Yes, I have minor pangs of jealously when I see you courting someone else, but it is clear, you want to play the field. I’m happy to have my freedom back. I’m happy to blog about what I feel like blogging about. I’m happy to make it through a meal without taking a photograph of it.
But,  I’m still drawn to you. I’m not totally over you. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re good enough, and you make some changes, I'll take you back next year.
In the meantime . . . today, I was inspired to create by Zomppa’s post.  In the spirit of the current PFB challenge: Picture Perfect (step-by-step photo tutorials), I dedicate the following two Hot Potato tutorials to all of those PFB contestants who have been dropped like a hot potato.

Version One - Hot Potato Game

Yes, I know, this isn’t food related – but perhaps it will serve as a great dinner party game.

2 or more players
1 potato
music to taste (make sure it can be easily paused and restarted)

1. Gather players in a circle – standing or sitting.

2. Hand one person the potato and start the music.

3. Players pass the potato to their neighbor. Play continues until the music is stopped.

4. Person holding the potato when the music stops is holding the ‘hot’ potato and is now out of the game.

Note: Some are good sports - Addie says "Darn!"

Warning: Some people get upset.

5. Continue game until one person is left. Winner is the player who has never been left holding the potato when the music stops.

Have Fun!

Version Two - How to Make a Hot Potato


Toppings – such as butter, sour cream, cheese, salt, pepper, chives, bacon . . . your choice.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. Scrub potato; then pat dry.

3. Pierce skin of potato with something – knife, fork, skewer, kitchen shears, drill bit  . . . your choice. (notice, we reuse our skewers!)

4. Place potato on baking sheet and put in preheated oven. Bake for an hour or more until aforementioned piercing implement can be easily inserted into the potato.

5. Remove from oven and slice lengthwise down the center. Be careful, it’s a Hot Potato! Top with toppings of your choice. I choose butter, salt and chives. However, I don't have any chives today, so to add a bit of color, I chopped up some leeks.

Hey, potato lovers remember to celebrate potatoes on the following days:
* September is National Potato Month
* March 14th is National Potato Chip Day
* July 13th is National French Fry Day
* February is Potato Lovers Month
* August 19th is Potato Day.

As for all current and past  PFB contestants (except one luck winner), celebrate your own personal Dropped Like a Hot Potato Day – mine was October 1st.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Reacquainting Myself with the Oreo Cookie

Oreo cookies are an American favorite that have remained virtually unchanged since they were introduced to us in 1912. Today, the original cookie has become an icon of our childhood days, and has provided Nabisco with an opportunity to build upon that Oreo cookie empire. Now we have more than 60 Oreo SKUs to choose from, including things like Double Stuf, Golden Oreos, White Fudge Covered with Chocolate Creme, Minis, low-carb Oreos, Halloween with orange crème, and limited edition football-shaped Oreos for tailgate parties. There is an Oreo for every occasion.
And, if you are looking to enjoy the flavor of Oreos outside of the cookie experience, there is a world of recipes that allow you to do so – from piecrusts, to mixing them Cool Whip, or deep-fried Oreos. If that isn’t enough, you can also find the Oreo ‘flavor’ in a host of packaged goods including Oreo-flavored cereal, Oreo cookie ice cream, and even a Japanese Oreo Matcha candy bar.
With all that Oreo cookie goodness surrounding me, I have to admit that I can’t remember the last time I ate an Oreo cookie. Am I un-American? Or just turned off by what can be found on the ingredient list?

Sugar, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine
Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cococ (Processed with Alkali), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey (from Milk), Cornstarch, Baking Soda, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Vanillin - an Artificial Flavor, Chocolate.

Yep, that’s what an Oreo is made of, and that list of undesirable ingredients just doesn’t sit well with me.
Actually, I don’t think it sat well with my brother either. I can still vividly remember the day nearly 35 years ago when he downed a whole row of Oreos. That night, he got sick . . . all over me ;-(
Needless to say, I haven’t been a big fan of Oreos since . . . until the other day.

A care package arrived from Mom. Among the craft supplies for the kids, Halloween decorations, and pictures from their latest European trip, was a small container of homemade Oreos.

They didn’t last long. The homemade version tasted just as I had remembered, only better. And, while they probably aren’t the healthiest treat to keep around, the recipe offered me a version of the store-bought variety that I could live with.

This weekend, I am once again becoming an Oreo fan, except this time around, it’s the homemade version. And, I may even make an extra batch and send them to my brother. (This time, I will keep my distance).


Makes about 30.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups sugar, plus more for flattening cookies
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature

Vanilla Cream Filling

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Into a medium-size bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add egg; beat to combine.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture; continue beating until dough is well combined.

3. Using a 1 ¼ inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets about two inches apart.  Dip bottom of a glass in sugar; press to flatten cookies to about 1/8 inch thick. (You may need to carefully remove dough from glass with a thin metal spatula.)

4. Transfer to oven, and bake until cookies are firm, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.  Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Place cream filling in a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, and pipe about 1 tablespoon filling onto the flat side of half the cookies.  Place remaining cookies on top, and gently press on each to squeeze filling to edges.  Filled cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to two days.


Makes about 1 cup.

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup solid vegetable shortening
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening until well combined.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add the vanilla, and beat to combine.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Our Luxury Dinner Party
(AKA The Would-Have-Been PFB #3 Post: Had I Made the Cut)

  This past Friday, as 12 o-clock rolled around, I stopped changing the kids’ beds and ran to my computer. I logged on to see if that coveted trophy would be attached to my Project Food Blog profile. But alas, it wasn’t. I was bummed, wondering how I missed the mark. I was confident (in a non-conceited way) of my efforts and my post, and had felt pretty sure that I would at least make it past this round.
  But I didn’t have time to wonder why and cry over not making the cut . . . I had to jump into action. That’s because I had followed the advice of the Food Buzz editors, who suggested that it would be a good idea to start planning for the next challenge, the Luxury Dinner Party, in the event that I’d make it to the next round.
  I obliged and now I had a fridge full of food, seven friends coming at 4:30, and a little girl sitting in her kindergarten class making place cards for our dinner table. I wiped away my tears, got a hug from my husband, and promptly headed back into the kitchen. There were sweet potato fries to be made, apple bunuelos to get in the fridge, and chimichurri sauce to be whipped up.
  Tonight it would be a South American inspired ‘luxury’ dinner. Notice that I place luxury in quotation marks. That’s because I need to clarify just what luxury means to me.

  When posed with throwing a luxury dinner party, it was the word luxury that made me cringe. You see, when I think of luxury, two words come to mind – time and money; neither of which I have much of at the moment.
  For those who don’t know, I’m a mom of four young children ages 7, 5, and a pair of 3 ½ year old twins. To me, luxury is the opportunity to go to the bathroom without having someone burst through the door asking for something (cat included). Luxury is getting the kids to bed early enough so I can spend a few moments alone with my husband before I plop into bed totally exhausted. Luxury is finding the time to remove the final bit of toenail polish that I had applied during my self-pedicure three months back. Luxury is  splurging on ice cream for the kids on a warm Saturday afternoon. Now, that is what I call luxury.

  But, my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary revealed something else.
Luxury is:

1. the use and enjoyment of the best and most costly things that offer the most physical comfort and satisfaction.
2. anything contributing to such enjoyment, usually something considered unnecessary to life and health.

  My response to definition No. 1: I don’t have the luxury to consider enjoying the ‘most costly things.’ Without going into much detail, the economy has wreaked havoc on us, and I’m on a strict budget. I have set my weekly food budget so there would be no caviar, high-priced wines, or expensive cuts of meats. I couldn’t blow my weekly food budget on Friday night’s meal – I had a family of six to feed the rest of the week.
  And, as for the ‘physical comfort and satisfaction' that Webster’s notes, well the best I could even ask for is the quiet I seem to get when I drag the pile of laundry into the living room to be folded – the kids immediately find something else to do, far away from the laundry.

  When planning this Luxury Dinner Party, I had to keep the following in mind: I didn’t have the luxury of toiling away in the kitchen for hours, preparing a multi-course meal for friends. I had school drop-off and pick-up, soccer practice, religious education, playdates, weekly meal-making, lunch making, etc. etc. etc.
And, while I dream of the luxury of an adult-only meal, let’s face it, at $20 an hour for a nanny, I wasn’t going to pay someone to come watch the kids while I sat with adults in the other room. Heck, my guests have kids too. And, when it comes right down to it, we didn't want to exclude them.

  Now on to definition No. 2: I had a problem with “usually something considered unnecessary to life and health.” I see nothing unnecessary about a meal enjoyed together. In fact,  a meal together is a luxury we enjoy each and every day at breakfast and in the  evening as we face each other around the dinner table and discuss the day’s events.

  To find a definition I could relate to, I had to read the third definition listed in the dictionary's luxury entry:
3. the unusual or emotional pleasure of comfort derived from some specific thing.

  My response to #3 – I agree. Eating a delicious home-cooked meal with family and friends definitely provides me with an emotional pleasure.

  So, I guess the results of my Luxury Dinner Party would be representative of how I defined luxury.

  I set to planning the meal – inspired by the warm late September nights, I opted for something outside – where the 8 kids could roam free, and the adults could keep an eye on them from a safe, quiet and relaxing spot on the patio.
  My menu would be South American in theme and would include empanadas, sweet potato chips and chili lime tortilla triangles for appetizers followed by a grilled skirt steak topped with chimichurri sauce, roasted corn with chili lime butter, and mashed sweet plantains. For dessert, it would be apple buneulos, using the apples from our backyard.

My menu consisted of foods I could prepare a few days ahead of time – such as the empanadas, and easy to prepare dishes when the guests were on hand – such as the grilled steak and corn or the roasted plantains. I assured myself that I would have the luxury of sitting down with my guests and enjoying the meal.

 With the adult menu set, I began to think about what I could serve the kids that would fit in with the so-called South American theme. I thought a roasted chicken with the mashed plantains and corn would do. But, as we were discussing the party plans early in the week, Nicole wrinkled her nose at my suggestions.
  It was that cute little nose wrinkle that got me thinking.
  With 8 kids to be at the party, they surely outnumbered the adults, so why shouldn’t they have a say in what they eat? With an age range from 3 to 7, there was a good possibility of a mutiny when it came to dinner. I could just see it now, just as the adults were sitting down to dinner, the kids would scream, “Yuck, I don’t like the mashed plantains,” or “I only like chicken that is crispy.” I would then be obliged to find something to settle the kids down and fill their bellies. (Actually the $20 an hour nanny is sounding pretty good right now!)
  Since the goal was to allow the adults to enjoy a sit-down meal with each other. So, why not let the kids decide on their menu? As long as it wasn’t hamburgers, pizza, spaghetti or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I was OK with what they chose.
  My kids started to run down their favorites: lasagna, Tigaroni (AKA rigatoni with cauliflower and baked breadcrumbs on top), and Sloppy Joe’s.
  Then, Nicole screamed, “Black meat!” (FYI: Black meat is what they call the meat for tacos).
  “Yes,’ the other three chimed in.
  So black meat it would be. Grayson then inquired, “What about appetizers? We can have empanadas, but how about fruit on sticks, too?”
  Then, Addison reminded us about dessert. “I want candy cherries for dessert.”
  "Yes,” said Keely, “Candy cherries on ice cream!”

  And, so it was. The kids menu was decided upon. Now, they moved into action.Nicole had seen me playing around with the menu template to be used in Challenge, #2 so she wanted to make a menu. She pulled out the easel and began to write down the kid’s menu. (Notice the Buick Lacrosse logo on it.)

  Then on Wednesday evening as as I made my way into the kitchen to make the empanadas, the kids arrived one by one to help Recently I had made 200 lamb empanadas for the San Francisco Lamb takedown contest, so they were well-versed in the process of making an empanada. As I rolled out the dough, Grayson pulled up a chair and began to place teaspoons of filling on the dough then folding it over and crimping the ends. Nicole arrived, followed by Addie and Keely.   Everyone had the chance to make a few before heading off to sleep.

  As Friday neared, the excitement did as well. My kids love parties. They love being involved in the planning and preparations so on Friday afternoon, after school pick-up, they jumped into action. Grayson helped set up the kids tables, then set both the adult and kids tables.

  “Mom, are we eating alfresco?” asked three-year-old Addison, who knew the word ‘alfresco’ from one of her Fancy Nancy books. Nicole was in her room carefully planning what she would wear, and the Keely continued to ask again and again whether I had purchased the candy cherries for dessert.

  The guest arrived, the drinks were poured and the kids ran off together while the adults sat back and relaxed . . . we had captured our luxury. As darkness fell and the kids ran around out back playing flashlight tag, the big kids reveled in our last few moments of luxury – a glass of wine and good conversation  . . . with other adults.

  As I see it, I serve up a luxury dinner party every night – we plan the meals, make them from scratch and sit together at the table discussing the day’s events. And this past Friday evening was no exception.
  In the end, I may not have advanced to compete in the Luxury Dinner Party challenge, but I am comforted in the fact that my family – and friends – consider me a winner.
I successfully completed the PFB Challenge #3, the Luxury Dinner Party – even if I’m no longer an official contestant.
Now on to planning our next party, the Annual Everage Pumpkin Carving Party! Bring your pumpkins, carving knives and your appetite!

Thanks to all who voted for me during the past two Challenges, in particular to those who posted encouraging words on my Royal Asian Meal post. Good luck to all those who are still in the race!
I hope you  keep reading Edible Tidbits, and take the time to visit the Everage 6 at, where we connect with the food we eat and the family we love!

Apple Bunuelos
Source: Nuevo Latino, Douglas Rodriguez 

2 cups butter
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 stick cinnamon
½ tbsp unflavored gelatin
1 ½ tbsp cold water
¼ cup boiling water
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the apples and the cinnamon stick and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the cod water. Stir inn the boiling water to dissolve thoroughly. In a separate mixing bowl, gently beat the egg yolks and the sour cream together. Stir in the gelatin mixture.

When the apples are tender, fold into the gelatin mixture. Transfer to a clean bowl, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the apple mixture from the refrigerator and make 35 to 40 small balls using a melon baller or mini ice cream scoop. Place the flour in a bowl, roll the balls in the flour, and refrigerate again for 10 to 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees F in a large pan or skillet. Roll the balls once more in the flour, then in the beaten egg. Roll in the flour a final time and fry in the hot oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning to fry on all sides.

Drain the paper towels, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately with whipped cream.

Yields 6- 8 servings