Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Green Eggs and Ham

Whenever I tell people that I write this blog, people inevitably ask me if I've written about Green Eggs and Ham yet.  I haven't, mainly because the thought of eating green eggs is not all that appetizing, and I needed to find a way that I could make them taste delicious and look delicious, preferably without using food coloring, and also kid friendly.  Well, I think I found a way.  But first things first.

Green Eggs and Ham was written by Dr. Seuss back in 1960.  The story goes that his editor, Bennett Cerf, loved The Cat In The Hat (which itself was written because Dr. S thought that Dick and Jane were boring), but was surprised that it contained 225 words.  He bet the author that he couldn't write a book using only 50 words, and the result was our beloved story.  (49 of the words, incidentally, are monosyllabic; the only standout is "anywhere.")  Now, I just find this whole thing amazing.  It's hard enough to write a good story, let alone a good story that can stand the test of time, but to write such a story that only uses 50 words sparkles with genius. 

If there are any of you out there who are unfamiliar, the basic premise of this book is that our narrator's friend Sam-I-Am keeps pestering him to try green eggs and ham, a dish that he says he doesn't like.  He doesn't want them with any number of dining partners or in any number of locations.  "I do not like them, Sam-I-Am!" he protests over and over again.  Finally, our hero relents and tries a bite, if only to be left alone, but finds to his surprise that he actually does enjoy the odd dish, and he would, in the future, eat them with a fox, on a box, and so forth.  Hooray for trying new things!

Speaking of trying new things, I tried a new recipe for this entry, and I think it came out rather well.  After rejecting several ideas, I finally made Green Eggs and Ham Cups, the green coming from pesto sauce that was spooned on top. 

Green Eggs and Ham Cups
Ham, sliced somewhat thick (I asked for "kinda thick slices" at the deli and they were perfect)
Peppers, onions, cheeses, and other omelette-type fillings, all diced into small pieces
Pesto sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 375.  Lightly grease a muffin tin, and insert one slice of ham into each cup, fluting it around the edges if necessary.
2. Add cheeses and vegetables to the bottom of the ham cups, trying not to put too much in.
3. Add one egg to each ham cup.  I did this without spilling by cracking one egg into a measuring cup with a spout, and pouring it from there to the muffin tin.  This way, I could check there were no eggshells in the egg, and I could easily pour it in without getting egg all over the tin and my hands.   (Alternately, you can scramble the egg and pour the scramble-y mixture in.  We made a few of each.)
4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until each egg has set.
5. Top with pesto sauce, and serve with toast, sausage, fresh fruit, or any other breakfast goodies.  Enjoy!

Right out of the oven and still in the muffin tin, they looked like this:

And then with the pesto, the cross-section of the Green Eggs and Ham looks like this:

I need to make these again soon.  So good!

I think these are especially kid-friendly because they're:
a) fully customizable - put in whatever you want!
b) easy for kids to help assemble - putting ham into cups, adding fillers, cracking and pouring eggs.
c) a good way to get little ones to try new flavors and meals while eating mostly-familiar ones.

So, I think this was a good one, but I'd love to know what you think.  Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?  Or would you do it differently?  You can tell me here in the comments, on the KCTB Facebook fan page, or you can email me at KatCooksTheBooks@gmail.com.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pizza Kittens Pizza

Kids will be kids, and kittens will be kittens, and not all kids or all kittens like the same things, do they?  And what is a Mama Cat to do when her three little kittens put up a fuss?  Pizza Kittens is a picture book by Charlotte Voake that addresses that very problem.

First, Mom tries fish sticks... but Joe wanted baked beans!  And - oh no! Not SALAD!  None of the kittens (Joe, Bert and Lucy) like dinner, and they make a huge mess, and when they leave the table, "What a horrible sight it was!"  Dad tries to step in, and he makes dinner the next night.  Too bad the kittens don't like peas, either; most of them ended up on the floor!  Oh, no!  Will the parents ever find a meal that will satisfy all of their picky eaters?

I fear that I've given up the answer to this puzzle by giving you the title of the book - Mom serves pizza the next night, and it was "Absolutely PERFECT!" (Though the last picture shows us one kitten happily leaning back in his chair, about to spill his water, with salad all over the floor around him.  Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.)  In the defense of the parents, it's not as if they gave in completely; the kittens were required to help clean up the messes they made, they helped set the table, and they still had to eat salad with their pizza. I'd like to think that it was more of a compromise-meal; since they helped out, and they ate bits of dinner during the week, so they had a special Friday-night pizza night. 

I also had a special Friday night pizza night tonight!  I made it from scratch, and it was quite tasty if I do say so myself.  I like the idea of individual pizzas, especially for this, because then each of your picky kittens will get exactly what he or she likes.  Also, having little ones help in the cooking (they can help with steps 2, 3, and 5) makes them more excited to eat the meal - a definite plus when nobody wants to eat.

Pizza Kittens Pizza
Crust of choice (I used store-made raw pizza dough)
Sauce of choice
Shredded cheese
Toppings of all kinds

1. Prepare the crust.  If using raw dough, as I did, then let it sit out at room temperature for an hour.  Stretch it into the desired shape (or shapes!  Everyone can get their own!), and then let it sit for 5 minutes before re-stretching.  This will let it settle a bit, so it won't shrink, bubble, or grow excessively on you when cooking, which will let your toppings settle evenly.  With my dough, I find it helpful to bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes before adding toppings, so it doesn't get soggy.  If you use a different kind of crust, make sure you follow the package directions.
2. Add the sauce, and smooth it out with a spoon.  Remember, a little goes a long way!
3. Sprinkle cheese on top, and top with desired toppings.
4. Bake for the amount of time dictated on your crust package or recipe; mine cooked for 20 minutes, and it turned out like this:
Yummy!  That deliciousness has pepperoni, onion, and feta cheese on top of the mozzarella, which is a fantastic combination.  The feta doesn't melt, and it adds a nice saltiness and creaminess.
5. Step 5 is, of course, ENJOY!
Deliciousness.  What more can I say?
So here's your homework for this week:  Read this book, make a Pizza Kitten Pizza, and tell me what the best combination of toppings you've found is.  Can you beat my pepperoni, onion and feta?

As always, you can leave your answers in the Comments section, or email me at KatCooksTheBooks@gmail.com, or come onto the Facebook fan page and leave me a message there.  Are you a fan yet?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich

"Not again!" you are no doubt thinking.  "You already taught us how to make three different types of sandwiches!"  Well, yes.  But this blog is as much about the books as it is about the food, and if you need a reason to get excited about sandwiches, this is a good one.

The full title of this book, including the subtitle, is Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich, and other stories you're sure to like, because they're all about monsters, and some of them are also about food. You like food, don't you? Well, all right then.  (Is that not the coolest title ever?  I love it when books talk to me as if they can hear me answering their questions.)  In brief, it's a book of poems written and illustrated by Adam Rex, all of which feature monsters - Dracula, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Bigfoot, and so on - and many of which feature food.  And all of which, I might add, are awesome.

Our book opens with a forlorn-looking Frankenstein's monster looking through an empty cabinet.  The text lets us know the story: "When Frankenstein / prepared to dine / on ham-and-cheese on wheat, / he found instead / he had no bread / (or mustard, cheese, or meat)." Oh, no!  Poor guy!  The poem follows him going to the neighbors to borrow some ingredients, but - alas! - he is a monster, and they got spooked, and threw their garbage at him.  Rather than being upset, though, Frankie realizes that the neighbors have made a mound of food, which he takes and makes into a sandwich.  Mmmmm, dinner!

As the book progresses, we learn that "The Yeti Doesn't Appreciate Being Called Bigfoot" (and "Bigfoot Can't Believe You Called Him Yeti Just Now"), we find out what's in "The Lunchsack of Notre Dame," we watch as everyone is too scared to tell Dracula that he has spinach in his teeth, and we're invited to watch as The Phantom of the Opera keeps trying to write a new song, but he just can't get other songs out of his head.  And, of course, "The Mummy Won't Go To His Eternal Rest Without A Story And Some Cookies."

Take a look at the artwork on the cover here - beautiful!
(Or, for a better look, here: http://amzn.to/l6x5vO )
Every single image in the book is just as well done, and if that wasn't enough, each monster's poems (which are each written in a different style) are illustrated in a different way - some pen and ink, some line drawings, some colorfully and intricately painted.  It really is worth a look or three.  

Mr. Rex has also written a book called Frankenstein Takes The Cake, in which we meet the Bride of Frankenstein and the couple's assembled friends and family as they celebrate their wedding, again told in poetry.  I highly recommend both these titles, both for kids and adults.  Due to them being monstery, they're listed by SLJ as Grade 2 to 5, but I think the poems would be a good way to get some younger kids away from being afraid of The Unknown, too - much like Caspar The Friendly Ghost, but sillier.

I was introduced to Adam Rex's work by Christy Meisler (the guest chef who made us last week's Owl Ice Cream!), in the usual way.  That is, she put the books in my lap and said, "read this!"  As always, she was right about these books, and all thanks go to her.  And so would a sandwich, if we still lived in the same state.

Frankenstein Sandwiches
Bread, rolls, or wraps
Various sandwich vegetation, such as onions, lettuce, peppers, or tomatoes

1) Choose a bread, roll, or wrap.
2) Choose a combination of fillings.
3) Spread any and all condiments onto your bread, and then fill with a large pile of various fillings.
4) Enjoy!

Okay, so this is a bit silly, particularly as the point of this sandwich is that it includes absolutely everything, kinda like a Dagwood sandwich, so giving an ingredient list is like giving a list of colors you can paint with, when everybody knows that the sky's the limit.  The Frankenstein Sandwich is a platform on which to experiment with flavors, textures, and deliciousness!  My sandwich, seen above, included buffalo-style chicken breast, Swiss cheese, onions, and blue cheese dressing. (So good!)  I often sprinkle some dried oregano on my sandwiches, which gives them a deli-esque flavor.  I'm also a big fan of roast-beef-and-turkey-with-red-onions-and-cheddar-and-pesto-on-a-hoagie-roll, and a friend's mom made me a delicious brie and pear on ciabatta not too long ago.  Sandwiches are a thing of beauty and creativity and deliciousness, and I really should eat them more often.  Perhaps while reading.

So tell me, dear bleaders:  What would your monster sandwich be?  And what would you read while eating it?