Foodie Friday: Weeknight Apple Crumble

Weeknight apple crumble. A quick solution to fresh apple pie.

Our weeknight hours are very limited. We get home between 6:30 and 7:00 and bedtime is 8:30. I try to squeeze as much quality as I can out of that time. My twin 7-year-olds and I talk about our days, discussing academics, relationships, and the international news. If I’m lucky, the girls will have liked the dinner served at childcare and I can put off my own dinner until they’re in bed. Sometimes, though, they come home without having eaten and I have to scramble to feed them before bath time.

I have a number of weeknight quick meals in my repertoire: hummus, chips and fresh fruit; turkey and cheese sandwiches with baby carrots; whole grain mac and cheese with frozen sweet corn. I can’t plan for these meals since I never know when the girls will decide that dinner at the YMCA is yucky.

On occasion, the girls will ask for dessert, and our default is ice cream. Last night, however, we had fresh-baked apple crumble. While I make a fine apple-cranberry pie in the winter, there’s no way I could whip one up in during the evening rush. Instead, on weeknights, I make a super-quick version of apple crumble

This is no healthy dish. It’s loaded with sugar and butter. However, I believe that giving in to hedonism every now and then is a good thing. I’m teaching my girls to indulge in moderation. And, as J put it the first time she tasted my apple crumble, “This is so good! The ingredients say it should taste like apple and sugar, but it tastes like love.”

Usually, when I share recipes, I at least pretend that I measure my ingredients and give measurable quantities alongside my ingredient list. You won’t get that here. Part of the way I keep this reasonable for weeknights is to minimize dishes that require washing. No measuring spoons. One mixing bowl. I pop the crumbles in the oven when I pop the girls in the bath and we eat them once the children are dry and dressed.

With no more ado, here’s my recipe:

Apple Crumble

  • Frozen single-serving pastry shells
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple per 2 shells
  • Handful of brown sugar
  • 2 handfuls of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Teensy touch of nutmeg
  • 1 handful of granulated sugar
  • Chunk of butter
  • (Optional) Handful of oats
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Place your pastry shells on a baking sheet. If you think they need extra support, a muffin tin should help.
  3. Peel and core the apples. Dice into small pieces. We like the pieces tiny, but feel free to do as much chopping as you have time for.
  4. Place apples, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and one handful of flour in a bowl. Mix. The mixture should glisten. If it looks watery, throw in some more flour.
  5. Divide the apple mixture between the pastry shells. Not enough apple? Mix up some more… or just make some extra crumble topping to fill it up.
  6. Mix the remaining flour, sugar and oats (if you’re using them). I just use the apple bowl because I’m lazy like that. Rub the butter into the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs or you run out of time, whichever comes first.
  7. Divide the crumb topping between the apple-fixed shells.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes. They’re done when you start to smell them. The apple mixture should be bubbling and the topping lightly browned.
  9. Remove children from bath and serve. Serve the crumbles to the children, that is, not the other way around.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Foodie Friday: Getting Dinner on the Table

Getting on the table can be such a challenge! Some tips for getting it simple and healthy

Recently my long-time friends and I were sharing an email thread describing our shortcoming when it comes to getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week. We are three intelligent ladies living in different areas of the US, each with different daytime duties and schedules and yet we all have one thing in common: we feel like we are failing when it comes to seamlessly feeding our kids at the end of a long day. I’m no expert, but I did come up with a list of ideas that have made my weekdays easier. Maybe some of these ideas will help make your dinners easier too:

  1. Instead of trying to plan out five meals to cook during the week, pick three.  I have found that five is too many to put together and you can usually float two meals between leftovers and schedule changes that come up as the week goes on.
  2. Make (at least) three of the same things every week.  You can switch up little things like the starch and/or the veggie side dishes (and you can change your three meals monthly if you fear you will get board) but making the same basic things during the week will save time and will help you get into a groove.
  3. Don’t make elaborate dishes.  I’m not sure about your kids, but mine really like individual foods.  Chicken legs, broccoli, avocado, rice.  Done.  Hamburgers (no bun because they really don’t eat constructed sandwiches at this age), sweet potatoes fries, veggie.  Done.  Red meat sauce and pasta, side veggie, yogurt.  Done.  Rice, lightly seasoned black beans, avocado, pork, done.  Pizza with whatever topping we have left in the fridge.  No chicken pot pies, no stews, no chili, limited soups.  I love the thought of them, but my children don’t eat them as well as individual foods, and they take too much time and effort for little return on investment.
  4. Prep SOME things on the weekend.  I have been cutting up a batch of onions, sweet potatoes, washing greens and cutting up broccoli on Sundays.  Then I just grab and go from there depending on what meal I am constructing.
  5. Make some grains on the weekends.  Make a batch of rice and cook some noodles or quinoa to have ready to go with any meal.  You can construct a lot of meals under pressure if you have these things cooked and in the fridge ready to use.  Refill your stock of one grain on Wed.
  6. Make ONE of your weekly meals on Sunday (the one that takes the longest to cook).  Roast a chicken, cook a giant package of chicken legs, cook a pork shoulder (I cook my pork shoulder completely plain then season it for other meals later e.g.  pulled pork (add bbq sauce) or tacos (pan cook it with taco spices), burrito bowls (reheat the meat with Mexican spices add it to a bowl of roasted veggies plus rice and avocado, cilantro, fresh tomato).  Cook this beef, chicken, pork, item relatively plain then add spices later to make it work for whatever you are doing.
  7. Anything you make a batch of (e.g. chili, soup, red sauce), freeze half immediately to be used for another meal.  I found that we get board of leftovers and I was consistently throwing some foods away. Having one meal in the freezer from a previous cooking adventure can be more helpful in the future.
  8. Frozen peas can be added to any meal to round it out :)

Those are my helpful tips and how I have managed to keep meal time somewhat sane.  Feel free to add any insights that have helped to get healthy meals onto your table.

Foodie Friday: A Healthy Alternative to Thin Mints

I’ve been rather obsessed with making different types of energy bites or energy balls lately for middle-of-the-night nursing snacks.  As much as I like them though, I will be THRILLED when we don’t need nighttime nursing snacks anymore!!! (Please tell me that some day our triplets will sleep through the night!!)  I started making these little balls of goodness a couple months ago after seeing a recipe on Pinterest but have since done a lot of experimenting with various flavor and ingredient combinations.  In general, I am a “just wing it” type of cook who likes to look at recipes for inspiration but then just throws things together.  Measuring is not really something I do, which is why baking isn’t really my strong suit.  The great thing about these little energy balls is that they are “no bake” gems that are very forgiving to imprecise measuring.  I’ve only made one “I bet this would be good in here” batch that flopped and the rest have been pretty tasty. These little energy balls are pretty quick and easy to throw together, which we MoMs know is clutch because “free time” tends to come in short bursts!  I’ve made many a batch of these wearing a baby or two.

Because you now know how much I despise measuring, I hope you will appreciate the effort it took me to actually measure and write down this recipe for you!  I would catch myself about to just toss something in and then remember that I needed to measure it so I could pull this recipe together.  But for those of you out there who are creative cooks like myself, please feel free to add “ish” after all these measurements! I’ve also added notes about substitutions that would work nicely if you don’t have these things on hand.

The raw ingredients!

The raw ingredients!

We love having these for nighttime nursing and since they’re chock full of oats I think they’re good for our milk supply.  They also have a little protein to help them stick with you.  And the best part is that they are delicious!  I’ll grab one from the fridge and it feels like sneaking a bite of cookie dough without the guilt!

The finished product!  They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they're delicious!

The finished product! They look a lot like meatballs, but trust me, they’re delicious!

Chocolate Peppermint Energy Balls

  • 1 cup cashew meal (I find this at Trader Joes.  Almond meal also works great)
  • 2 cups oats (I use gluten free oats from Trader Joes, but any will do)
  • 1 cup oatbran (if you don’t have this you could sub oats or more nut meal)
  • 1/2  cup cacao powder (standard cocoa powder works fine too)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dates (not tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (can subagave or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/3ish cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips but was out when I made this batch)

Instructions: Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Put chia seeds in a measuring cup and then add water up to about the 1/2 cup line and let rest for a few minutes.  When you come back to your chia seeds they should have absorbed the water and be pretty thick and gel-like.  Add maple syrup and peppermint extract to the chia and water mixture and stir that and the dates into the dry ingredients.  It can take a bit of work to fully distribute the dates and wet ingredients.  The “dough” will be pretty dry and crumbly looking.  Mix in chocolate chips.  This is where it gets messy.  Now grab a small handful of “dough” and smush it together.  Some recipes say to “roll” the bals, but in my experience it’s really more of a smushing than rolling to get them to stick together.  This recipe will make approximately two dozen balls about an inch in diameter.  Usually about halfway through making the balls my hands are so sticky that the balls aren’t smushing well.  So I just wash my hands and come back for another round of smushing.  For those of you with older kiddos this would be a great job for your kiddos to help with!

Other flavors I’ve made include chocolate peanut butter, almond joy, chocolate almond, and honey peanut butter banana.  I’ll try to find the time to measure out the ingredients for these recipes and post them on our blog therrientriplethreat.blogspot.com.

 

Foodie Friday: Mini Master Chefs in the Kitchen

Our three year old twins are at the fun age where they want to help out around the house, and they can actually do things in a helpful way! Yesterday after picking them up from daycare, I decided to get them involved in preparing a side dish for dinner: a vegetable stirfry. Taking some of the week’s leftover vegetables like broccoli, baby carrots, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, I chose to make it Asian style with a mix of ingredients for the sauce.

Missy was in charge of washing the cherry tomatoes and zucchini while Mister took care of the broccoli and carrots. Both took their little stepstools to our double kitchen sink and washed their veggies (with some help from Mama) in their respective bowls. As an added bonus, a bunch of the cherry tomatoes and baby carrots ended up in their mouths.

Kitchen Safety

The tricky thing about the actual cooking part was to make sure both kids are safely away from the flame while I was cooking and had a task to do at all times. I would keep the knife well out of reach on top of the counter and helped them to add ingredients to the pan from a safe distance. Also, I was within arms reach of them at any point, whether they were hovering around the stove, or at the kitchen sink, or rummaging around in the pantry. Lucky for me they stayed together so I wasn’t chasing anybody around the kitchen.

Mini Chefs at Work

In the spirit of teamwork, Missy opened the cupboard I asked her to while Mister retrieved the big plastic bottle of olive oil and even helped pour it into the pan. I searched the fridge and pantry for different base ingredients to use for the sauce like soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic & ginger paste to name a few. When I asked for ‘masala’, M&M ran to the pantry to grab some spices. Missy chose the red pepper flakes and Mister got the parsley flakes.

We also added onion flakes, sesame seeds and flax seed (yes, flax seed!) to the stirfry. With every ingredient, I would place some on the palm of my hand and let them taste it. Another playful way to sneak in some fibre without them realizing it! Good thing they were tasting throughout the process because when it came time to eat the finished product, they weren’t interested!

Here are the instructions for this easy-peasy 5 minute stirfry. You’ll notice there are all approximate measurements. Since I allowed Mister and Missy to shake in the spices, a lot of the ingredients just got sprinkled or poured in!

veggie stirfry

Mixed Veggie Stirfry

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2Cute lives in Ottawa, Canada and is mom to 3 year old fraternal boy/girl twins. She and her hubby are quickly learning the benefits of utilizing child labour to get the simple yet mundane household tasks done. She blogs at 2cute.intiaz.com and tweets at @2cuteblog

Foodie Friday: The Very Versatile Pizza Roll

I ran across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread a year or so ago.  While anything with the name “garbage” in it isn’t inherently appealing (or is it just me???), the thoughts of ooey-gooey-spicy-chicken-and-cheese were enough to win me over.  I made the Buffalo Chicken Pizza Roll, as I prefer to call it…and it was soooo good.  I loved it, Hubby loved it, and my girls would have eaten thirds if I’d let them.

Over the past year, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and I’ve tried it with any number of filling options.  One of our favorite combinations is the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Roll.

DSC_0174I use leftover meat of some sort…in this case, peppered pork tenderloin.  I dice it, along with some veggies….here, onions, peppers, and mushrooms.

Then I saute my ingredients.  For this iteration, I cooked my onions and peppers first, and then I added my diced meat and mushrooms.  Because I was using peppered meat, I didn’t season it any further.

DSC_0175Then, roll out some pizza dough.  (I use the refrigerated kind that comes in a can.)  Roll your dough pretty thin…although not too thin so that it tears when you roll it up.

DSC_0177Then spread on your filling (meat and veggies) and sprinkle with cheese.  Here, I used a blend of Mexican cheeses, as that’s what we had.  Some Swiss or Provolone would have been even better.  The original recipe calls for almost three cups of cheese, but I use considerably less, not more than a cup…just enough to help hold everything together.

DSC_0179Very carefully, roll up your dough and place it, seam side down, on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.  Tuck in the ends of the roll.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes (or according to the directions on the pizza dough).  Allow it to sit for about five minutes before you slice into this deliciousness!!!

DSC_0183This basic recipe works with so many combinations, and it’s a fantastic outlet for leftover meat.  In addition to the Philly Cheesesteak version, I have made the Buffalo Chicken roll with leftover rotisserie chicken, wing sauce, and blue cheese.  And I used leftover turkey at Thanksgiving to make a turkey + onion + bacon (cooked and crumbled) + Swiss cheese roll.

(Reference the original recipe for approximate measurements.  I don’t measure the filling…if I have more than I need, I save it to go in an omelet the next day = double win!)

It seems the sky is the limit with this recipe, and the results at our house are guaranteed to garner some cheers at the dinner table.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  A food photographer, she is not, but she blogs about her girls’ adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Foodie Friday: Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Roast Chicken andVegetables(1)

Whenever I can make it work, I like to cook for leftovers. I’m a busy working single mom. We only have about 2 hours between the time we get home and bedtime, so quick dinners are my preference for weeknights, despite my love of cooking.

If I can cook a whole chicken with roasted vegetables and gravy on a Sunday, that can keep us (me and 2 7-year-olds) fed all week. We can have a nice chicken dinner, with plenty of meat left for sandwiches and other variations throughout the week. Even the cats get in on the action, occasionally being given some fatty skin as a treat.

To me, “real” gravy is the kind I make from a vegetable trivet, where I use a layer of vegetables to keep the chicken off the pan. My kids call it British gravy, since I told them it was what I grew up with in the UK. My children aren’t fans of vegetables unless they’re raw, so the roasted veggies, apart from the trivet, are for me. However, J deigned to try a roasted carrot the last time I made this meal and pronounced it, “surprisingly delicious.”

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Foodie Friday: Hot Chocolate Bar

Cookie decorating party

Candy-covered snowman cookie from a cookie decorating party!

M waited until Ms Snow’s frosting had dried to eat her. The ripe age of 7 is when patience kicked in.

Every winter, some time between Christmas and the arrival of spring, my daughters and I host a cookie decorating party. We look forward to this event all year. Even as we’re cleaning up cookie crumbs, frosting and sprinkles, we’re already hatching plans for next year’s extravaganza.

Having hosted this event so many times, we’ve got the prep work pretty well figured out. I bake cookies, make and tint royal icing and transfer it to piping bags, and I put out enough candy to fill a small store in my dining room.

This year I decided to add a hot chocolate bar. I wasn’t sure whether it would be just too much sugar added onto the insanity of cookies and their decorations, but it turned out to be a great hit.

Hot chocolate bar from hdydi.com

I made a gallon of hot chocolate (with whole milk, of course. This is a decadent event.) in my crock pot. Nearby, I set dishes of marshmallows, broken candy canes (although any mint candy would do) and butterscotch chips. I also made a couple of flavoured creamers available. By the time our party was over, the hot chocolate had all been consumed and I’d refilled the marshmallows three times.

Why not try this out at your next winter event? It’s popular with kids and parents alike! You could make a smaller version of this as a special winter treat on a snow day home with the kids.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Foodie Friday: Make-Ahead Baked Oatmeal Casserole

I pinned this recipe for baked oatmeal months ago, and I’ve been meaning to try it for ages now.  I am a big fan of cold cereal (the cold crunch wakes me up in the morning…or so I tell myself!).  My husband likes warm cereal, especially in the winter, and the girls usually alternate between oatmeal and cream of wheat.

Sadly, I'm no food photographer!  Click the original recipe link for a yummier picture.  :)

Sadly, I’m no food photographer! Click the original recipe link for a yummier picture. :)

I liked the idea of mixing things up a bit on the weekdays.   (On weekends, I usually make at least one big family breakfast.)  I also liked the idea of making something ahead that I could just heat up for the next few mornings.

The verdict at our house?  The girls love this!  Hubby wasn’t a big fan.  Truth be told, he probably eats too much sugar in his regular oatmeal, so I’m guessing this felt a bit too healthy for him.

The girls have said the past two mornings, “This looks like a dessert!  And we get to eat it for breakfast!”  (This makes me laugh a bit, too…we don’t eat a lot of sweets at our house, so I guess it’s all relative.)

The original recipe is gluten-free, and it has a little more sugar and chocolate chips in it.  (I’m sure that would be delish!)  Here’s the recipe, as I made it.  I think this is probably one of those that you can tweak, depending on what you have in your pantry, and how “dessert-like” you want it to be.

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I believe you could use any kind of berries, and any kind of nuts.  Raisins or dried cranberries might be good, too.  I might try mixing in some sunflower seeds or flaxseed next time, as well.

I made this one evening, and stored it in the refrigerator.  I’ve cut pieces for my girls the last couple of days, and heated them in the microwave.

I hope you enjoy this “breakfast dessert” as my girls call it!

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

An Ode to Parchment Paper

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m a busy twin mama.  I have no time to compose odes!

But I do want to share something I’ve discovered over the past year or so that’s made my life as a busy twin mama infinitely easier…parchment paper!

Admittedly, I feel a little silly, having just discovered parchment paper.  I grew up with a mama who loved to cook and bake, AND I worked in a bakery during high school.  But…I had never bought any parchment paper until last holiday season.

It only took a time or two, and I am a complete convert.

Using parchment paper makes baking -- even with two eager "helpers" -- so much easier!

Using parchment paper makes baking — even with two eager “helpers” — so much easier!

For any cookies…biscuits…breads…rolls I bake, I line my baking sheet with parchment paper.  (It is found by the aluminum foil in the grocery store.)  I used to have an almost superstitious attachment to my favorite cookie sheet, one that is nearing 20 years old, one for which I have not been able to find a duplicate ANYWHERE.  Now, though, any of my baking sheets work perfectly ever single time.  AND my clean-up time has been reduced exponentially.  Now most of my pans just get a “courtesy wash”.  I haven’t had to soak a baking pan in over a year!

Over the weekend, I made meatballs for the first time in over a year.  (We all love meatballs, but this busy twin mama doesn’t much love the squish of ground beef between her fingers…shudder!)  I broke out my trusty parchment paper to line my baking pans.

Suffice it to say, I may be making meatballs more often.  I still had the squish of ground beef to deal with (shudder!), but with my parchment paper in place, I wasn’t left to soak my pans for hours, then to still have to scrub them clean.

Dear parchment paper,

Where have you been all my life?

I am deep in love.

OK…I couldn’t pull off an ode, but I think this qualifies for a really bad haiku.

What’s your easiest time-saving trick in the kitchen?

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.