Happy 6th Birthday – with Mac and Cheese Recipe

My daughter turned 6 over the weekend.  She celebrated by having two friends over for dinner and a sleep-over.  My daughter, being my daughter, had lots of opinions regarding her menu.  She wanted to serve “macaroni with cheese”, veggies with dips, lemonade, peace sign pretzels (found at Whole Foods) and a double layer lemon cake.  I say macaroni and cheese in quotes because sometimes it’s penne with gruyere or shells with white cheddar or a mix of left-over pasta and what I have on hand cheeses.  However I’ve made “macaroni and cheese” for some kid guests, who will not touch it if it doesn’t look like “the box” version.  So I consulted recipes for one that seemed the most orange and box looking.  I decided on one from my Real Simple Cooking app with a few changes and omissions (no jalapeno peppers, thanks).  Funny my daughter said it was the best recipe yet.  I think the secret ingredient is the mustard.  I wonder if mixed with the dried fake cheese is mustard powder?  See recipe below…

mac and cheese - the real deal

1 lb elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon coarse grain mustard

1/2 pound extra sharp cheese, grated, 2 cups

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions. Drain well, return to pot and set aside.

In a medium sausepan melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour to make a paste.

Whisk in milk and heat to boiling.(careful not to over boil)

Add the mustard and cheeses and whisk until smooth.

Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and toss. Heat to warn through if necessary.


(Much to my daughter’s chagrin there was a roast chicken at her birthday dinner as my husband is not eating cheese and one of her guest’s doesn’t like mac and cheese either.  She got over it and no one starved.)


I have no idea where the lemon cake idea came to her.  If I made a lemon cake it’s been pound cake or lemon bread, but not double layer, that I can remember.  I cruised my cookbooks and the internet and found a few options.  I combined a few ideas and I must say it was quite yummy.  The cake had one half cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice which gave it a nice lemon flavor.  The frosting was a simple whipped cream and confectioner’s sugar mixture.  Then the filling between the layers was two parts cream frosting mixed with one part lemon curd.  The lemon curd was not homemade but a favorite from Trader Joe’s.  The girls had a lovely time decorating it.  I took a few photos of before the decor.  It could’ve been decorated with fresh or sugar flowers, but that’s not what makes a six year old smile.  My daughter chose a beach and peace sign theme, so there was beach sand of colored sugar, ocean of clue colored pearls, plastic retro surfers, sugar peace signs and the most ridiculous candle you’ve ever seen.  She was so excited to find the candle at our favorite cake decorating store (Cake Art in San Rafael), after seeing it at a friend’s party (who bought it on eBay!)  It shoots a flame (I blinked and missed a photo op) then spins around lighting candles and playing Happy Birthday.  The music is like a baby toy – high pitched and annoying.   When it wouldn’t stop, my husband had to cut a wire inside.

My husband is usually in charge of breakfast on the weekends, so my daughter put her birthday order in with him too – waffles with berries and whipped cream.  The girls were happy and I got to use some of the extra cream I’d whipped the night before.  However one girl said how she liked to spray “the can” in her mouth.  My daughter tried to explain there was no can.  Not sure her friend believed her.



Got a Princess? Review of Annabel Karmel’s Latest Cookbook


As you know I receive many different cookbooks and recipes to try.  As soon as I opened Annabel Karmel’s Princess Party Cookbook, Over 100 Delicisous Recipes and Fun Ideas, it was whisked away by my daughter.  She’s 4 1/2 and likes anything with sparkles and bling…especially Annabel’s photos of cupcakes, cookies and lovely girlie party presentations.  I’ve had the book a few months and forgot about actually making something because she looks through it so often (even puts sticky notes on her favorites), I couldn’t take it away from her bedroom shelf.

I finally decided to try out a few things one weekend.  My daughter was so excited.  Obviously the photos were enticing, but how about the taste.  I have to say the recipes are pretty good and we have a few new favorites.  The book is full of fun ideas with matching foods and recipes for girl get togethers – from themed birthdays (princess and the pea, Cinderella) to Valentine’s parties to movie star sleep over and soda fountain fetes.  My daughter really wants to make the jeweled cupcakes.  However like a few other ingredients for the presentation, the edible jewels are hard to find.  Annabel even has some websites for resources, but couldn’t help with these jewels.  I finally found them and will report back when they arrive (hopefully soon).   

We tried the Cindarella’s Coach Risotto with pumpkin and arborio rice first.  I thought this was good choice because I had some left-over pumpkin puree and the rest of the ingredients.  However I had to guess at the amount of pumpkin since the recipe calls for 1/2 medium butternut squash or pumpkin.  It would have been helpful to have the amount too.  I guessed at 1 cup, which worked well.  My family ate the risotto with grilled pork loin and it made a nice hearty side dish.  It said 4 – 6 servings but this was quite generous. 

Next we made Cheesy Cloud Pillows.  This was basically popcorn with shredded cheese.  It was o.k., but nothing exciting.  Here’s a good example of a fancy name to create excitement.  No, I’m not being critical … sounds a lot like “Dad’s Magic Chicken”.   

My daughter will never eat a boring egg salad sandwich again, after seeing the egghead sandwich recipe and photos.  Basically egg salad “open-faced” on bread.  The face is created with red pepper pieces, shredded carrots, pickles, olives, etc. etc.  We’ve had great fun making and eating these.  While simple, it is fun and engaging for all ages. 

Last week we hit on another favorite… the angel cut-out cookie recipe (see below).  Annabel suggests making these angles to hang on the holiday tree.  They’re lovely, but hanging up seems like such a tease and waste of a good cookie.  We decided to shape the dough into snowflakes and ballerinas to share at my daughter’s winter wonderland dance performance.  These were very good.  You can’t go wrong with butter and superfine sugar.  I made my usual glaze (milk and confectioner’s sugar), because I didn’t have meringue powder for the recipe’s icing. My daughter really got into decorating these and carefully placed sugar pearls and candied stars on each cookie, to much appreciation. 

All and all if you have a girlie girl and need party and food ideas then you’ll enjoy this book.  Sometimes I was a little put off by all the use of candy in the decorating, but you can substitute (dried fruits, nuts and chocolate chips), or just know this is not an everyday healthy cookbook.  Remember too, Mrs. Karmel is from the UK and some ingredients may differ or be less available stateside.    

Angel Cut-Out Cookies by Annabel Karmel

(condensed version of recipe, without icing and tree hanging tips)

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, slightly softened

3/4 cup superfine sugar

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl cream the butter and suagr until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.

Stir the flour and salt together with a fork in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture.  Mix until it forms a soft dough.  Form the dough into a flattish disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll out.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide the dough in half and and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into desired shapes.  Repeat with the second half of the dough, then reroll the trimmings and cut out more cookies.

Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper, speacing the cookies about 1 inch apart.  Bake the cookies for 11 – 12 minutes (*check in 8 minutes if small shapes), until golden brown.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely before icing and decorating.

*I burned a batch when using small cutters.  So check a few minutes towards the end of baking time.


New Year’s at Nine (with Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

What did you do for New Year’s with small children and no babysitter?  We had a family party to celebrate the New Year on East Coast time. Although you can use Australian time, or any other time that suits your needs and bedtime. We were hoping to celebrate with friends and their kids, however we were getting over the flu and didn’t want to spread the “cheer”.

However the good thing about kids (at least little ones) is that they really don’t know much about time.  So blowing a noisemaker and putting on silly hats at 8:30 p.m. works for them.  This can be effective for any celebration or get together with little ones.  A few festive foods and decorations and it doesn’t matter what time it is. Plan for all ages to be awake and be able to celebrate with sparkling drinks and party snack foods for your next celebration. With Tivo and other recording devices the New Year’s Eve ball drop can happen anytime – day or night (or more than once a year).

Our menu (recipes below) was fun because we ate our New Year’s dinner with our fingers – like a real h’ors d’ouvre party.  Some other easy and kid fun “bites” include threading things on toothpicks like cut sausage (serve with mustard or ketchup dip of course), or grilled shrimp or chicken pieces.  Happy 2009!

Organic Juice Sparkler

This is a fun and healthy way for children to join in on a fancy toast with a sparkling drink of their own. This recipe is really simple and can be made with any kind of fresh, organic juice such as orange, pear, or apple. At holiday time I like pomegranate juice because of the bright and festive color. Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids. The juice can be found year round in the fresh refrigerated juice section of most supermarkets.

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup sparkling mineral water
¼ cup fresh pomegranate juice

Combine water and juice in a glass.


If serving a crowd, combine three parts sparkling mineral water with one part fresh pomegranate juice in a pitcher. Serve over ice cube cuties for older children and adults.

Kids Korner

For a really festive drink, add a few cranberry ice cubes (just add cranberries when freezing water in trays) and a straw. You’ll be surprised how much those touches will excite your child.

Kids’ Crab Cakes

Just because “kids” is part of the title, don’t be hesitant to share these with adults, too. They are simply shapes for smaller mouths, or a single hors d’oeuvres bite for mom and dad. These are festive and special for a holiday appetizer or dinner with family, and made healthier than the usual crab cakes with yogurt substituting for mayonnaise.

Makes 16 to 18 (1½-inch) crab cakes

1 large cage-free organic egg
1 tablespoon organic plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon grated yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup soft bread crumbs
8 ounces fresh or canned lump crabmeat
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs or panko
2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, mustard, dill, onion, and pepper. Stir in soft bread crumbs until combined. Stir in crabmeat until combined but do not overmix.

In a small bowl, combine dry bread crumbs and oil. Set aside.

Using your fingers, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of the crab mixture into 1½-inch rounds and flatten. Press each side of cake into dry bread crumb mixture to stick.

Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on bottom and cooked through.

Zuke Sticks

Zucchini is a tough name to pronounce for little ones and zuke sounds much more fun. These are a good snack food, side dish, or party food to serve with other veggie sticks. A side of marinara sauce or ketchup is good for those little dippers.

Makes about 50 sticks; about 6 servings

¾ cup dried bread crumbs or Panko
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup organic milk
3 medium organic zucchini, cut lengthwise into 3 × ½-inch pieces (peel if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Place the flour on a plate. Pour milk into a shallow bowl.

Dip each zucchini stick in flour until lightly coated. Then dip in milk. Finally roll in bread crumb mixture until covered, pressing so mixture sticks.

Transfer zucchini sticks to prepared pan and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until zucchini is tender and coating is crisp and brown.

Kids Korner

Enlist older children to help by rolling sticks in flour, milk, and bread crumbs. This may become a messy job as mixture can stick to fingers. A child that does not like messy hands will pass on this task.
See also Lisa’s Happy New Year! Lobster vs. Pizza – Don’t Ask
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Roberto Giovannini | Dreamstime.com
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com

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