Vitamin C for Dessert, Yes Please!

I am highlighting oranges today. 4 year old, Chef Izabella here. My family and I love oranges.

Oranges are available fresh almost year round in some form of seasonal variety. Oranges are typically inexpensive too, especially when bought in a 5 or 10 pound bag.  We buy oranges in bulk from local farm stands about once a month. We also love to pick fresh oranges from our neighbor's tree. They are the best tasting oranges I've ever had.

I Love to peel a freshly picked orange, outside on a warm afternoon. Once I peel back that first section of the orange, my nose is instantly met with a delicious aroma of citrus perfection. I start to peel faster, so that my taste buds can smile with that first bite of the delectable, sweet, juicy orange. I love the sticky, sweet smell of the remaining juice on my hands, especially if a gusty breeze blows by, in which case I usually jump up and twirl to the music of the nearby wind chimes, as the scent of orange dances in the air.
A good juicy orange forces me to wash my hands afterwards.

We like to juice oranges and enjoy fresh orange juice with breakfast. We freeze left over juice so that we can use it in sauces or dressings later. It's convenient to freeze orange juice in an ice cube tray, and pop out a couple juice cubes for a homemade dressing or sauce later.
We use the orange peel or zest in a lot of things. The orange zest adds a pop of color and a zing of flavor to many dishes. We'll add orange zest to our chicken dishes, crepes, pancakes, dressings, pestos, cookies, quinoa, pastas and more.

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C, so although the saying goes "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" I'd strongly suggest that an orange a day keeps the doctor away, especially during cold season. Oranges have about 60-70 calories per orange, which make oranges an ideal afternoon snack.

Well let's get to the nitty gritty. My favorite use for freshly squeezed orange juice, is in fresh orange juice popsicles. We like to squeeze our oranges, add a bit of raw sugar to the juice, dice up freshly picked strawberries and pour the juice over the berries. We let the popsicle molds freeze for a few hours and then voila... we enjoy our fresh popsicles. They are better than any store bought popsicle. So indulge in your own Vitamin C rich treat for dessert tonight. Click here for my orange popsicle video.


Breakfast With Bacon and a Kiss

4 year old, Chef Izabella, here. I have been trying to decide which meal of the day is my favorite. This is a tough one, since each meal presents an opportunity to make great food and to sit and enjoy the food with the ones I love. However, I have concluded that although all meals and snacks are great... breakfast is my favorite.
I especially love weekend brunch with the whole family.
Just like a car needs fuel to get from one place to another, our bodies need energy from food to jump start our day. Breakfast should be power packed with lots of nutrition, love and quality time together.
One of my favorite foods in life (besides chocolate) is bacon. Seriously, if my mom ever wants to track us down like a homing beacon device... she just starts to saute up some bacon. Everyone gravitates toward the kitchen. Our breakfasts and brunches almost always include bacon.
We also love waffles, pancakes, mini souffles, crepes, oatmeal with fruit and nuts, egg scrambles, cinnamon rolls, smoothies, frittatas, biscotti and more.
What are some of your favorite breakfast meals? 
Plan a breakfast date with your loved ones soon. Allocate an hour or two for the breakfast. Do all the preparation, cooking and clean up together (designate age appropriate tasks to everyone). Talk and laugh and play fun music as you spend time together. Sit and sip some orange juice or sparkling cider in a fancy glass. Dip biscotti in hot cocoa, coffee or chocolate milk.
Linger. Laugh. Listen. Enjoy breakfast with bacon and a kiss with the ones you love, today!
Chef Izabella's Pancake Demo Video

Salute and cheers,
Chef Izabella

Birthday Cake All Year Long

4 year old Chef Izabella here. I love the major holidays. They are great. But all year long, I live for birthdays. I love to help my parents, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends celebrate their birthdays. The streamers, balloons, hats, music, dancing, singing and time spent together is wonderful. But.... the BEST part of every birthday is the cake! It's even better, if it is made with CHOCOLATE! In our family we crave chocolate daily. Recently my mom was explaining to me how my new baby sister flails around because she lacks self control. I laughed and said jokingly, "Is it like you with chocolate mom?" We both laughed hysterically. We both love chocolate.
My mom and I frequently task ourselves with making the cake for the birthday guest of honor. This is our gift to him/her. We always add lots of love... and chocolate to every cake.

I love the time spent with my mom while we make the special birthday cake. We laugh a lot. We learn as we measure out all of the ingredients. We get creative with sprinkles and powdered sugar and other little decorative items.

We hope to encourage other parents and kids to make more birthday cakes this year. It's easy to run to the store and buy a store bought cake. But in the time it takes to load up the car, drive to the store, buy and pay for the cake.... you could be half way if not all the way done with your delicious homemade cake.... made with love and quality time together.

Cook Out Loud and spend quality time together in the kitchen.
Salute, Chef Izabella


Get Festive at Christmastime

4 year old, Chef Izabella (aka: Chef Izzy) here. It's almost Christmas. I love being in the Christmas spirit. I have a few thoughts about Christmas.

1. We should love one another by sharing with one another.
Share food with friends, family and neighbors. You can make the food with loved ones and share the food with loved ones. You can also buy nice treats and share them with others.
Serve others who are less fortunate than yourself at a food kitchen. Or donate food to a food drive.
We love to support Feeding America. Most of the donations get used very efficiently and go directly to the people who need it.

Share your toys too! As a kid, I love my toys, but I find it refreshing to donate some of my toys to less fortunate kids. This is especially kind to do during the holidays.
We love to donate to the Vietnam Veterans of America. They typically pick up within 24 hours. Find an organization near you, and donate warm sweaters, blankets, toys and other gently used household items today.

2. Help out around the house. Not because "someone is watching you do good deeds" but because you have a big heart and want to be a contributor in your home. If you are four years old like me, you can do a lot (with adult supervision): (a) carefully help set and clear the dinner table (b) help transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer; easier if you have a front loader (c) help take out the trash cans (d) help with the cooking and baking (e) help open the back door to "let the dog out" in the morning (f) help grab a diaper or throw something away, for your parents; if you have a baby sibling (g) help by putting your toys away without being asked to do so (h) help by putting your dirty clothes directly into your laundry bin in your closet (i) help wrap the gifts, if you are good with little scissors... help cut the paper... help tear and place the tape, etc.

To my younger readers, what are some things you like to do to help out?

3. Make a ginger bread house and have your parent or older sibling, write your last name on it. Or, you can try to write some of the letters yourself, like I do.
Do some additional festive Christmas cooking. We like to make our Christmas Biscotti, our Cheesecake Christmas bites and our red and green Christmas tortillas (use this recipe but use red and green food gels to add a Christmas flare). Of course we love to share the food we make.

4. Add some sparkle wherever you go. We like to add a little bit of sparkle to our cheeks with face glitter. We also like to add glitter to our reindeer food. Here's our reindeer food recipe AND our demo video. We add a bit of oats, glitter and shiny hearts and sprinkle it on the lawn so the reindeer know where to land on Christmas Eve.

5. Say some prayers and/or meditations together as a family and write a gratitude list of everything you are grateful for. At the end of the day, you will probably conclude, like we do... that we already have our Christmas gifts right in front of us. We have our loved ones - and they are the best gifts in the world.

6. Be prompt in writing and mailing or handing out your thank you cards. Often times family members mail packages or hand deliver them to us. Don't just unwrap it like lightening, say "thanks" and race onto the next gift. Savor each gift. Give the gift giver eye contact, and genuinely say "thank you" from your heart. Write your thank you notes in a timely fashion and remember to say "thank you" in person or over the phone, skype or facetime. Be grateful. Gifts cost money and each gift should be cherished. If you received $10 in a check or cash, buy your "thank you" cards with this money.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

If you are breathing and alive... you are tremendously blessed.
Buon Natale. Chef Izabella


Celebrate Christmas, in the Kitchen

In our home, we love Christmas time. Christmas means spending quality time with loved ones, baking lots of fun Christmas treats in the kitchen - and being merry, loving and kind to one another.

Jesus came to show us how to love one another perfectly. He lived a life of service and kindness, and he always loved others before himself.
His birth is represented at Christmas time. We can honor Him by loving one another all year long, and especially by loving one another even more authentically and deeply, at Christmas time. Let's show love this season by serving others.

Christmas is a perfect time to make new friends. What better way is there to make new friends, than by sharing yummy treats with them?

We love making our Christmas biscotti and sharing them with friends and neighbors.
Go ahead and make them in your home and share them with new friends, old friends, family and loved ones, this Christmas season.

Biscotti make great gifts. You can place 4-6 biscotti in a small plastic bag. Seal off all the air inside. Tie the end with a red or green ribbon. Place a "to and from" sticker on the bag with the appropriate information on it. Or, you can take a large mason jar and fill it with biscotti and tie a ribbon around it, and gift it to someone as well. Or, take an even larger see-through glass pitcher of some kind, fill it with biscotti, put on the air tight lid and put a bow around it. This gift will be cherished.

Biscotti tend to get gobbled up quickly, but if you are storing them, do so in an airtight container for up to one week.

Recommendation: We enjoy dipping our biscotti in coffee, hot cocoa, tea, milk or chocolate milk. Get creative!

We also love to make and share out Christmas Cheesecake Bites. They are a beautiful little dessert appetizer that will make a splash at any Christmas party. The kids love to swirl in the red and green food gel with a toothpick. You can also gift these little cheesecake bite treasures. Place 4 on a small appetizer plate and gently cover with plastic wrap. Place a nice Christmas sticker on top.

We find that food related gifts from the heart make the most meaningful gifts of all.

Kids are SO capable. They can do almost anything with good instruction, patience and practice.  Give your kids the gift of spending quality time with them in the kitchen this holiday season.

Here's the biscotti recipe: Izabella's Christmas Biscotti
Here's the biscotti demo video: How to Make Christmas Biscotti 

Cheesecake bite recipe: Izabella's Christmas Cheesecake Bites
Here's the cheesecake bite demo video: How to Make Christmas Cheesecake Bites
Click Here for some more Kid Friendly Recipes


Mini Savory Treats - Good for Mind and Body

Hello. 3 Year Old, Chef Izabella (aka: Chef Izzy), here. My mom and I have been cooking up a storm lately. A current food trend in our home, has been baking and cooking mini savory treats. Mini treats are filling and nutritious. We like to throw garden fresh herbs and vegetables into them.  Here are links to four of my favorite mini savory treats.

1) Mini Chicken Pot Pie Empanadas
2) Mini Puff Pastry Meat, Cheese and Basil Sandwiches
3) Mini Frittatas
4) Mini Quiches

I'm three, so I like mini treats. I have found however, that adults and kids alike, both enjoy food served in mini portions. In French they call a single bite appetizer an "amuse bouche". This is usually served like an appetizer, before serving the main meal, it's just slightly smaller.

We believe that mini treats can be served as an appetizer or as the main dish. If serving as a main dish, just note that your recipe may only serve 4 as a main dish, whereas it might serve 12 as an appetizer.

Small bites or mini treats tend to get gobbled up rather quickly. I've observed at parties and gatherings, that trays with small bites on them, are usually half empty within the first half hour. It's usually a good idea, to have more treats on reserve, to replenish the food trays.

As a toddler, I am really into practicing my counting skills. When my mom and I make small treats, I like to count them, throughout the process as we make them. I count the dough rounds for our empanadas or mini quiches, as we cut them out with biscuit cutters. I count the mini muffin tins as we line the muffin pans. I count the final empanadas as I brush the egg wash onto them. When we plate our mini treats onto a serving platter, I even count them one more time. We tend to gobble a few along the way, so our starting number is often less than the final morsel count.

We like to use fun cookie cutter shapes whenever possible. We use fun shapes to cut out mini servings of our large frittata rounds. We also use fun shapes to cut out our puff pastry dough for our mini sandwiches. We eat with our eyes first, so pretty garnishes, fun colors and fun shapes appeal to me as a toddler. When food looks fun, I'm more inclined to try it!

I also gain incredible dexterity and motor control, while assembling and making small treats. For instance, when I brush the egg wash onto the puff pastry or empanadas, I am careful to brush just a small amount onto each treat. I am careful to avoid dripping excess egg everywhere. When I scoop mini muffin batter into mini muffin tins using a small ice cream scooper, I am careful to get the batter into the tin, not all over the pan or counter. I'm as careful when I spoon quiche filling into my mini quiche shells in the mini muffin pan. When I cut out dough rounds with a biscuit cutter, I do it with intention and precision, carefully placing the biscuit round on top of the desired dough area. I try to maximize the number of dough rounds I can get out of the rolled out dough. I have learned that I must visualize what I'm going to do before I do it. I also work slowly and carefully. There is no need to rush the process. Practice does make perfect!

So, the point is, HAVE FUN WITH FOOD. Parents and guardians, get in the kitchen with your little ones. We love to spend quality time with you, especially in the kitchen!

Click Here for some more Kid Friendly Recipes.


Utilize Your Little One's High Energy in the Morning

Hello there. 3 year old Chef Izabella (aka: Chef Izzy) here. My mom and I cook together just about every day. Allow me to expand on how cooking in the kitchen with my mom, enriches my life as a 3 year old:
1) I feel like a capable contributor in my home. I make a difference. I can help out in some small way with every meal. We have to eat 3 meals a day. Whether I help brush the braising liquid over the spare ribs, or I help kneed the bread dough, or I help roll out the pate brisee, or I simply whisk the homemade dressing ingredients together, I am helping my mom. This makes me feel important and significant.

2) I learn to follow instructions with specific boundaries, especially when it comes to adhering to our kitchen safety rules. My mom makes the rules and boundaries in the kitchen, clear. I love new challenges. My mom allows me to try new, fun techniques in the kitchen with her, as long as I am a good listener and I obey her closely. I know that she has my safety as her top priority. This is a key life lesson, that I will take with me in every stage of my life.

3) I enhance my cognitive, motor and spatial abilities as I work in the kitchen. I portion the appropriate amount of dough, or meat loaf, or pancake batter, etc in my mind as we are cooking. Sometimes I'll score the food with my hand, to make the right portion sizes. I know that 1 cup is more than 1/2 cup. I even know that when I cut my waffle into quarters (we also call them 4's) using a blunt knife, that if I cut them in half again, I end up with 8 triangles. I count mini paper muffin cups as I line a muffin pan. I know that there are 24 little holes in a mini muffin pan. And there are 12 holes in a regular muffin pan.

4) I have gained incredible dexterity from working in the kitchen, which has helped my writing skills on paper. Using a biscuit cutter to cut out dough rounds after I roll out dough, for our mini quiches or biscuits has helped! Folding dough rounds in half after I fill them to make our empanadas has helped! Crimping the empanada edges with a fork has helped! Scoring ridges on our gnocchi dumplings has helped! Cracking and separating eggs has helped! Rolling our tortilla dough into little balls, pressing them into the tortilla press and then tossing them back and forth to lighten the dough has helped! You get the point! Dexterity comes from working in the kitchen!

5) I am really gifted and talented. I gain confidence in my abilities every day. When I crack eggs and separate them for my mom, some days I crack all the eggs perfectly. Other days one slips. I keep trying. I know that with practice, I improve every single day. The point is, I'm 3 years old, and I can separate and crack eggs almost flawlessly. This skill has been acquired over the last year. I feel pretty awesome!

When I wake up in the morning, I literally am a bundle of energy waiting to erupt. My mom, transforms this energy by allowing me to help out in our home. I can help her make the beds. I can help her transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The most fun way to use up some of my energy, is to help her make breakfast every day. She'll set 3 eggs on the kitchen island, with a whisk, a large bowl, a bit of cream, and some salt and pepper. She'll say, "Ok darling, crack the eggs, add the cream, add a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk them up". And you know what. She can turn and look the other way and cut up our fruit for breakfast, while I get the eggs ready for her to scramble up. Then I wash my hands and I help her set the table. It might seem easier to throw me in front of the television, so she can get breakfast ready more quickly on her own, but revisit notes 1-5 above. You'll see why the time investment in allowing your little ones to help, is vitally important and rewarding in the long run. Many days, after we clean up our breakfast mess, my mom will let me help her prepare our dinner that will be slow braised all day. When I eat my food, I take a large amount of pride, in knowing that I helped make it!

So for my older readers, please take some extra time and patience, and let your little ones help you out in the kitchen. For my younger readers, remember to follow instructions vigilantly. This will make your caretaker want to include you more often.

Enjoy your day. Cheers and Salute! Chef Izabella

For some cool recipes, check out my mom's site at: Cook Out Loud