Saturday, August 20, 2011

Changing it up

So this blog is sadly neglected.  Why?  I don't know.  Well, I do.  I don't seem to know quite what to do with it. Or rather, I didn't.  But lately instead of cooking for the boys, I've been cooking with the boys and that has me inspired.  See my friend has this awesome blog Pork Cracklins where she cooks, reviews the recipe and links to it someplace.  Nice, right?  Well, now that I'm doing more recipe based cooking, cooking with the kids, I've decided to steal her style, add some kids and change the formula of this very blog. 
What you'll be seeing here now will be cooking experiences with the boys.  We've invested in a couple of cooking for kids kind of cookbooks and working our way through those, we'll be keeping track of what we liked, what we didn't like and what alterations we made.  And hopefully with that new format, I'll actually start posting about my cooking more than once a year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Celebrating their first pot luck win

Tonight was National Night Out, the national get out and meet your neighbors event that our block celebrates with gusto.  Each year we have a big BBQ with the kids running amok and the parents drinking beer saying just how much we should do this more often and remembering how we said the same thing last year.  We generally stay out on the street until the kids beg to go to bed and the parents finally give in.
As you know, I approach all pot lucks as competitions.  I go for the win or I don't bother going.  I usually bake something.  Baked goods tend to look great and since most people don't do a lot of baking they usually have no idea how little effort it takes to make something that looks and tastes amazing. This year it was S'more cupcakes, but that's not what I'm writing about.  No, the big win today was made by the boys.

This week the boys have started cooking camp.  Little Dog has had a long fascination with cooking, I suspect it has a lot to do with his desire to learn to make his own cookies so I no longer play gatekeeper on his favorite food, but I'm happy to have him in the kitchen.  Big Dog likes to cook, but perhaps more because he likes to help.  I have to admit, most days I ban them from the kitchen when I cook.  Our kitchen is not well laid out for more than one cook at a time.  I also tend to think of my time cooking or baking as a reprieve from my busy life.  I like it quiet and controlled.  I should probably include them more, but I don't.  Sue me.

Tonight was different.  I came up with something they could pretty easily make on their own, but something that would also be delicious and look great.  I also knew it would be a winner since I made it as a last minute pot luck entry a couple of years ago and it was gone within minutes of being set down.  What is this easy dish you ask?  Caprese salad.  Or at least a pot luck friendly version of it.
In this version I use mixed color heirloom cherry tomatoes, bocconcinni (little mozzerella balls) and loads of fresh basil.  I get all of these ingredients at Trader Joe's so it makes it easy to pull together on short notice as well.
I set the boys up with some kid friendly knives, a pair of kitchen shears and good directions and they did the rest.  The salad was beautiful and I received repeated compliments which i redirected to the boys.  They were very proud, but maybe their first win came a little too easy.  They didn't seem to want to run victory laps around the folding tables, instead they insisted on playing in the sprinklers with the other kids. 
Super Easy Pot Luck Killer
3 lbs heriloom cherry tomatoes (a variety of colors works best, but in a pinch good basic cherry tomatoes work too)
2 containers of bocconcini (these are just a great size to work with the tomatoes, but if you can't find them use a larger fresh mozzerella and cut it into pieces about he same size as your halved tomatoes)
1 big bunch of fresh basil cut into pieces (I aim for nice evenly-sized strips, but that was not what the kids delivered.  Let's just call their approach more...rustic)
Good Olive Oil (no specific measurement here, but a good slightly heavy handed drizzle over the ingredients to pull it all together and the nicer olive oil you use, the nice the flavor of the salad)
Sea salt (again, no specific measurement, just a few good pinches until the tomato flavor really pops.  You'll know it when you taste it)
Fresh ground pepper (a few good grinds, just don't go too nuts)

Cut the tomatoes and cheese, or better yet get your kids to cut the tomatoes and cheese in halves and put them into a bowl.  Add the cut basil and toss it together.  Add the heavy drizzle of olive oil, use a little more than you think you need.  Add the salt and pepper to taste and toss again.  That's it and yes, it is a winner.