Toddler-Friendly Dipped Marshmallows

Growing up we had lots of sweets available to us around the holidays – rugelach, spritz cookies and an assortment of powdered-sugar coated confections. Many thanks to my mom and aunts, all accomplished bakers, for these delicious memories. I wanted to share this sweet experience with Alex and have him help with the preparation, but at (almost) 3-years-old, it has to be pretty simple. I thought about having him decorate sugar cookies, but I’m lazy and don’t like frosting things. So, I did what I usually do and wasted an evening on Pinterest looking for ideas. I found precisely what I was looking for: dipped marshmallows.

Dipped Marshmallows

Here’s my toddler-adjusted version. We bought a bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows and a container 0f Baker’s dipping chocolate (you can also make your own dipping chocolate by melting 16 ozs. of milk chocolate chips with 2 tbsp. of shortening. But then you’d have more dishes to wash). I bought lollipop sticks from the craft store, and Alex stopped sprinting around Jo-Ann Fabrics long enough to select bright pink sugar crystals and daisy candy sprinkles. I love that he supports having pink in our boy-centric house. I also got some mini chocolate chips.

Dipped Marshmallow Ingredients

I used ramekins to pour our various dipping options into, then prepped some marshmallows by putting them on the lollipop stick. I put everything on a sheet of parchment paper so we would have a non-stick place for the chocolate to dry. Heating the chocolate took about two minutes total, and I was pleased to note that the container was not too hot to handle (the contents, however, are quite warm, so I wouldn’t try this unless your kid is hip to the concept of hot things).

Parchment paper is the best!

Alex was a fan of the marshmallow on a stick concept, and started eating them immediately.

Alex vs. the marshmallow

Once he got that out of his system, he seemed to enjoy the dipping concept. Ed and Charlie came over to watch, and Ed dipped a few himself at Alex’s request, so consider this an excellent family activity (bonus!). Next time I think I would wait a few minutes for the chocolate to cool a bit — we had lots of chocolate goop co-mingling with the sprinkles and I think the chocolate just needed to firm up a bit. We managed to dip about 10 marshmallows before Alex moved on to other things, so it was not super successful in terms of focus, but I still think he liked it. 

While setup took about as long as the execution, this was easy-peasy clean-up since everything stayed on the parchment paper. Our hardest-working family member (the Roomba) took care of the spilled mini M&Ms under the table. At least the ones that weren’t stuck to Charlie’s pants or in his mouth. There are benefits to being small and floor-bound.

Charlie continues to approve of his experience with solid foods to date.

Charlie continues to approve of his experience with solid foods to date.

 

Quick Apple-Mustard Pork (or chicken!)

Quick Apple Mustard Pork

I am trying really, really hard at scheduling out meals every week, because otherwise I get home from work, tired and directionless, and we end up ordering take out. I mean, I love having other people cook for me, but the costs add up. So, on Saturday evening, I scour the internet for recipes to try the following week. I found this recipe for Apple-Mustard Chicken Tenders on the Taste of Home website. I’m a fan of their magazine but I let my subscription lapse after watching the pile of unread magazines reach fire-hazard levels. Sayonara Taste of Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Country Living, This Old House, and every other special interest publication not related to children. See you in 10 years.

What attracted me to this recipe was the short ingredient list and the fact it has two steps. SOLD. One of the reviewers said they used pork instead of chicken, which sounded like a good idea. I don’t usually cook pork unless I have a plastic baggie and some shake-and-bake, but sometimes you need a little cooking adventure. That said, the apple base is pretty versatile, so any white meat will do the trick.

In addition to one pound of pork or chicken, you also need apples, brown sugar and mustard. I used Stonewall Kitchen’s maple champagne mustard. You could use spicy or stone-ground for more kick.

Ingredients for Apple pork recipe

To get started, melt a little butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Throw some salt and pepper on both sides of the meat, and put it in the pan when it’s hot. I like to use thin cuts of meat — I find I’m less likely to burn the outside this way, but just make sure you don’t overcook the meat, either. Otherwise it’s dry and tough. I haven’t quite figured out that happy medium between moist and tender and charred and inedible, but I mention it in case you have meat-cooking skills.

Once the meat is cooked (about 3-4 minutes per side), remove it from the pan. Turn the heat down to medium, and add chopped apple (from 1-2 apples), 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup mustard. Stir it all around and let it cook down a bit. For a crispier topping, just cook this until it’s heated through. For a saucier topping, cook it as long as you like! The apples will get mushier the longer you heat them.

Throw the meat back in the pan and let the meat and apple topping mingle for a minute or so. Then serve with the apple goodness spread on top.

Apple and pork mingling happily

We served this with butter noodles and a little side salad. It was quick to make, and even Ed – who is sparing with his thumbs up on recipes – liked it. I’ll be adding it to our official recipe binder! (Which is rather thin thanks to my unwillingness to cook things with more than 5 ingredients.)

Quick Apple-Mustard Pork
Serves 4
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. pork (or chicken if you prefer)
  2. 2 apples, chopped
  3. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/2 cup mustard (stone-ground or any other kind you like!)
Instructions
  1. Season meat with salt and pepper. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a pan, and cook meat over medium-high heat, about 3-4 minutes per side. Turn the heat down to medium, and add chopped apple (from 1-2 apples), 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup mustard. Stir it all around and let it cook down a bit. For a crispier topping, just cook this until it’s heated through. For a saucier topping, cook it as long as you like! The apples will get mushier the longer you heat them.
  2. Return meat to pan for about a minute. Serve with apple topping.
Adapted from Taste of Home
Adapted from Taste of Home
Busy Boy Guide http://busyboyguide.com/
 

 

Brinner: It’s what’s for dinner

If there’s one unsung hero of dinner, I’d have to say it’s Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I don’t know how they manage to fit so much flaky goodness in one little tube, but I’m grateful for it.  I love them on their own, but those little dough squares make an excellent base for an all-in-one egg dish. I’m not really a morning person, so I don’t often go to the trouble of making a big breakfast. I do, however, pull out all the breakfast stops for brinner (brin-ner : foods you usually eat in the morning served for dinner. Delicious and inexpensive and completely necessary for happiness in life).

Brinner: It's what's for dinner

The original recipe for Bacon and Egg Crescent Squares comes to you courtesy of Tablespoon.com. The ingredients are simple, and if you buy crescent roll dough in bulk like I do, you probably have everything on hand.

Brinner ingredients

You will need one tube of Pillsbury Crescent Roll goodness, 4 eggs (extra large if you have them), bacon, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese (optional).

Precooked bacon works fine for this recipe, but if you want to cook up your own, I recommend baking it in the oven. It’s super easy, splatter free and a cinch to clean up. Warning: The ease of preparation may cause an increase in bacon consumption. You have been warned.

Just lay out your strips of bacon on a foil-lined pan with sides. Pop them in a cold oven. Then set the oven to 400 degrees. Walk away. Come back in 17 minutes to a pile of sizzling deliciousness.

baconimage

Now let’s start transforming that magical tube of dough. Pop open the crescent rolls and carefully lay out the dough flat. I did this right on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Separate the dough into four rectangles, being careful not to stretch it out too much.Pinch the dough together along the middle seam, then roll up the four edges a bit to make a self-contained crust. This needs to hold the egg in place, so make sure your edges are raised enough.

croissant dough

Crack one egg onto each section of dough. I’ve made this a couple of times, and I’ve had one overflow incident every time. It’s okay. You can try scooping it back in, or admit defeat and let it cook next to the dough. Toss a little salt and paper and a pinch of Parmesan cheese onto each egg. If you’re using pre-cooked bacon, go ahead and add two slices to the top of each rectangle.

eggs in dough

Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. If you’re making your own bacon, you can put these in on the bottom rack without any trouble. When the eggs are cooked and the crust edges are slightly browned, remove from the oven. Add bacon to the top if you haven’t already, and marvel at your fancy (but super easy) brinner creation.

Finished Brinner Product

This doesn’t happen a whole lot at our house, but Alex ate his entire dinner. Ignore the 2-year-old watching Toy Story at the table and marvel at the empty plate.

Alex eats his brinner