Category Archives: Cooking With the Walnut

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creativity craze: the complete book of activities, games, stories, props, recipes and dances for young children

It’s the first rainy day we’ve had in weeks, and somehow, it’s oddly comforting. Staying indoors practically forces me to hunker down, brew a cup of tea and watch the raindrops fall. And yet, when you add kids to that equation, it suddenly becomes a different story. Lucky for us, my 6-year-old had a puppet-making class at our local library this morning that helped save the day. On our way out, we stopped by a table of books featuring kids’ crafts, an ideal way to extend the creative experience back at home. While we perused several noteworthy recommendations, nothing comes close to the recent book I received for review. The Complete Book of Activities, Games, Stories, Props, Recipes and Dances for Young Children is teeming with ideas and suggestions for keeping imaginative kids actively engaged and entertained: a whopping 600+ selections are sure to impress even the most finicky kid (the one who even knows how to make his own playdough). My 10-year-old and her younger sister got a hold of the book one recent morning and got down to work. Having been bitten by the theater bug, the older one was really into the “Old Brass Wagon” dance and within a short time, I was treated to a live performance of their routine. Her sister also got in on the fun with “Ginny’s Box,” a combination treasure hunt/storytelling game that let both girls’ imaginations run wild. From this mom’s perspective, I’m all for anything that balances out screen time with creative play. This is one book we’ll be holding on to for a while.

In a Nutshell: Creative kids looking to expand their repertoire can’t go wrong with this massive tome. A bona fide treasure trove of activities for rainy days, sick days and more.

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just chill: the coolit

When my younger daughter was a toddler, she loved eating a bowl of soup…but the soup didn’t always love her. She’d scoop up a spoonful of hearty noodles, shovel it into her mouth and scream bloody murder because it was “tooooo HOTTT!!!” No matter how long I kept vigil over the stovetop, I could never get that temperature just right (even the ever-fickle microwave couldn’t quite master temperature effectiveness). It seemed I was doomed for a life of servitude: forever blowing and waving frantically over piping hot bowls…until my mother casually suggested tossing in a ice cube, and that was that (moms do know everything, don’t they?). But because ice cubes don’t work on solid foods, what’s a perplexed parent to do? Enter the Coolit, a novel idea in food preparation for particular kids. Simply pop this BPA-free plate into the freezer before mealtime (allow for enough time: about 3 hours). When you’re ready to eat, transfer your child’s hot food into the Coolit, then on to her favorite plate and voila! Dinner is served and ready to eat. No more blowing or burned mouths to contend with. Who knows? Your kid may even eat her veggies now…

In a Nutshell: A feeding dish that makes meals not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Even Goldilocks would approve.

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guilt-free gourmet: papa murphy’s take ‘n’ bake pizza

TGIF. It’s been a long, hard week of deadlines, doctor’s appointments, pick-up and drop-offs, and now you’re finally free. Until, of course, that famous question is asked: “What’s for dinner?” Short of turning the kitchen over to the kids (who really wants to clean up the aftermath?), it’d be nice to give your family a home-cooked meal without the prep that goes along with it. And while you’re somewhat tempted to hit the drive-thru, you know they deserve something more than that. That’s where Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza comes into the picture. It’s one of the few, if only, pizza-making companies that puts together  your pre-ordered pie, but lets you do the baking at home. We love the concept of all the prep work–the dough-making, the cheese grating, the sauce simmering and the veggies-chopping–being done for us, while we get to take credit for the hot, bubbly creation that comes out of our own kitchen’s oven. (I personally hate walking in the door with a take-out box, then rousing everyone up to wash hands and get ready to eat…before the pizza goes cold.) Instead, you can come in with pizza box in hand, preheat your oven and settle in as your personal pizza heats up. (Hey, you may even have enough time to pour yourself a glass of wine!). Then, take a look around the dinner table, note those smiling faces and breathe a deep, relaxing breath. Dinner is served.

In a Nutshell: Now you can “make” dinner with minimal effort. Papa Murphy’s stores are located throughout the central and western United States, in approximately 38 states and Canada.

*Because the Walnuts reside in New York, we weren’t able to sample a Papa Murphy’s pizza for ourselves, but look forward to a future visit.

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sweet treats for your sweetheart: entenmann’s v-day edible bouquet

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and we’re feeling the love already! If you’re looking for a fun way to woo your sweetie with a little help from the kiddies, check out this recipe from Entenmann’s. (Not a whiz in the kitchen? Click on this video that walks you through it, step by step.

And after the kitchen’s been cleaned up, you can enter the Entenmann’s Sweet Donut Sweepstakes on the Entenmann’s Facebook page for the chance to win lots of prizes, including Entenmann’s coupons, Mr. Rich Frosted and Ms. Crumb plush toys, 1-800-Flowers arrangements and more. Details can be found on Facebook.com/Entenmanns or on 8-pack boxes of Rich Frosted Donuts and 8-pack boxes of Crumb Donuts. Good luck, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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hats off to comfort food: spud spikes; ruum kids’ clothes

My daughter’s bus driver just told me it’s supposed to snow on Sunday. Already? I was just admiring the still-ripe roses and their unseasonal bloom on our garden trellis. We’ve been so spoiled by the mild fall here in the Northeast, that it’s hard to believe it’s nearly December. Since so many of you will be sitting down to Thanksgiving leftovers in the coming week, we thought we’d share a useful product idea to make your oven accident-proof. Spud Spikes are a cooking nail that, when inserted into a pre-cooked potato, prevent blow-outs and allow for even cooking. The result is a tasty side dish, and less clean-up. We think they’re more effective than jabbing a fork into your pretty potato skin over and over….And since the weather is cooling down, it’s time to “convince” your kid that it’s time for a winter hat. You may have drilled it into his head that much of your body heat is lost through your head, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to give in for just any old hat! We love the new Fairisle Brim Hat from RUUM American Kid’s Wear. It’s a stylish, yet smart choice that gives kids plenty of coverage without skimping on the cool factor. RUUM has plenty of new winter weather accessories this season. Check out the RUUM newsletter so you can see the full line.

In a Nutshell: It’s getting cold outside. Warm up with some tasty ‘tatoes and later, head out with some cool-weather head gear.

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holiday helpers: omega juicer, zeroll ice cream scooper

Happy first weekend in November. Have you scarfed down all that Halloween candy yet, or at least put it out of plain sight? As the countdown to Thanksgiving begins, we’re trying to be a bit more…er, healthy and so that means making smarter choices in what we put in our tummies. And that’s the perfect excuse for updating your kitchen gadgets or dropping a few hints what you might appreciate under the tree this December. Because my 5-year-old has been on a smoothie kick lately (I wish I could take credit for this, but I think it’s because of Healthy Snack Fridays at school), we can truly appreciate a juicer that gets the job done and looks pretty on the kitchen counter. The Omega NC900 packs a mean punch, with five settings for better juicing and a large hopper that can fit bigger pieces of fruit and veggies. (If you’ve got a kid who’s requested watermelon chunks and pineapple wedges in her concoction, you’ll surely put this feature to good use.) And because we can’t be good all of the time, you can get your sugar fix this weekend without getting too frustrated. Zeroll Ice Cream Scoops have mastered the unthinkable: getting a scoopful out of a brand-new container with minimal effort. The magic lies in the special cast aluminum, fluid-filled handle that enables heat to transfer from your hand to the scoop, helping warm the liquid and defrosting the ice cream. Now that’s hot…or is it cool?

In a Nutshell: Get ready for a season-long celebration of eating and drinking with new kitchen gadgets that give you more time to make merry.

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lemon-aid: international delight iced coffee

It wouldn’t be summer for my family without having a lemonade stand. My 9-year-old prides herself on being an entrepreneur. Or maybe it’s just  that she likes being showered with attention from all our kindhearted neighbors. Whatever the motive, this past weekend was sunny and hot–an ideal setting for a setting up shop. With her 5-year-old sister on hand as a helper, my daughter laid out the provisions and in no time at all, was ready for business. And what an operation it was! Not only did they rake in some staggering profits (in the upwards of $15!), but the addition of some lemon Oreo cookies complemented the refreshing beverage of choice. They were so excited by their job well-done, they are already thinking about next year’s stand and how they could make a good thing even better. Because it’s oftentimes the parents who are backing up their cars and jumping out to sample a cup, maybe the ticket is to appeal to a more sophisticated consumer…with a beverage normally reserved for coffee shops and outdoor cafes. International Delight Iced Coffee is an ideal choice to add to the menu. Not only does it hit the spot on a hot day, but it’s a refreshing alternative to the same-old iced tea you’ve been chugging all summer long. We like the fact that this drink can be added seamlessly to your kid’s stand, thanks to a cool downloadable Lemonade Stand Tool Kit that includes signs you can print out, selling tips and even a drink calculator to help you figure out how much to stock up on.

Walnut Special: To give you even more incentive to open up an iced coffee/lemonade stand this summer , The Talking Walnut will award one winner three coupons good for International Delight Iced Coffee. The winner will be randomly selected; just add a comment to this post and we’ll select a lucky recipient. This contest will close on Sunday, August 11 at 5 pm EST. Good luck, and here’s to a successful stand!

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breakfast of…: chobani champions tubes

My 9-year-old isn’t big on breakfast these days. As much as I’d like her to consume more than just a glass of OJ, she refuses to eat anything (unless, of course, we happen to whip up a hot meal of pancakes and bacon. Sorry, kid; that’s what weekends are for). Well, as luck would have it, she is now a changed young woman, thanks to a personal chef and a special delivery. It all started back in May when we decided to throw a “Chopped”-style birthday party for our resident foodie (even if breakfast isn’t her thing, she is an otherwise well-rounded eater who adores the famed reality cooking show). When the chef proposed a smoothie round, my daughter was a bit skeptical–and so was I. After he managed to assure her that Greek yogurt wasn’t like other dairy, we added it to the menu. And when her guests oohed and ah-ed over their banana and pineapple concoctions–complete with said yogurt–I knew we were on to something. Fast forward to summertime when we were recently given a chance to review Chobani Champions Tubes. Suddenly, breakfast was no longer a battle, as my willing participant was ready to go Greek yet again. The verdict?  A creamy, rich texture that goes down smooth. And the convenience of the tube means that she can take them with her or eat them at home in less time than it takes to polish off a cup of yogurt. Available in fun flavors like Chillin’ Cherry, Rockin’ Blueberry and Jammin’ Strawberry, Chobani Champions Tubes are a great source of protein and a good way to start the day off right. We can’t wait to try the brand-new Flyin’ Dragon Fruit next!

In a Nutshell: Finicky little eaters have finally found a food with grown-up appeal that works for breakfast, lunch or a healthy snack. Perfect for lunchboxes for camp or school.

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best drink in a leading role: polar seltzer oscars-inspired cocktails

Yes, we admit to focusing mainly on new kiddie products here at the Talking Walnut. But every now and then, it’s nice to shift gears and give a shout-out to the grown-up world. (After all, where would our kiddos be without us?). And because this Sunday marks our all-time favorite TV event of the year, we are paying tribute to the Academy Awards. In our house, we make scorecards and rate our favorite red carpet moments. (My 8-year-old can rate a dress “don’t”  faster than the fashion police!) But if you’re hosting or are invited to an Oscars party for adults, these are some fun specialty cocktail recipes supplied to us by Polar Seltzer that you can mix up. We’re not sure which concoction we like best, but we’ll gladly sample them all. So whether you are rooting for Les Mes or Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain, be sure to have plenty of snacks (and ice) to sustain you through all those acceptance speeches. Cheers!

In a Nutshell: Grab your cocktail shaker and get busy behind the bar with these fab movie-themed beverages.

 

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“THE SPARKLING BAYOU”-Inspired by / BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (pictured here)

1 lemon wedge

2 sprigs fresh mint

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/4 cup grape juice

Ice cubes made with filtered water and various berries Polar Blueberry Seltzer

1 small bunch Concord grapes, for serving Place lemon and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker; add sugar and muddle to combine. Add grape juice. Fill shaker with ice; cover and shake to combine. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain into prepared rocks glass and top with Polar Seltzer; garnish with concord grapes and serve immediately.

“THE LORD OF LIGHT” – inspired by Argo

Rose Water

Polar Cherry Pomegranate Seltzer

Simple Syrup infused with Cardamom

Garnish with mint, raspberries or pomegranate seeds In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add about a tablespoon of the cardamon syrup, then 1.5-2 ounces of the rose water. Shake and then strain into martini glass. Top with Polar Seltzer. Stir gently to combine.

Cardamom Simple Syrup Recipe:

1 part water

1 part sugar

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

In a saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and allow it to begin cooling. Once syrup is cool enough to be tasted (but before all the heat is gone) add cardamom. The infusion happens quickly and at low heat.

 

“THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR” – Inspired by / LINCOLN

Polar Granny Smith Apple Seltzer

Polar Premium Ginger Ale

Cinnamon sugar

Apple slices, garnish

Pour equal amounts of Polar seltzer and Polar ginger ale into a glass filled with freshly made. Garnish with apples and a dash of cinnamon sugar.

 

“THE EXCELSIOR” -Inspired by / SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

2 oz Gin

1/3 oz Maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice

1/4 oz Creme de Cassis

Polar Vanilla Seltzer

Lime, garnish

Combine in a shaker, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with Polar Seltzer, stir gently so as not to bruise the delicate bubbles.

 

“UNCHAINED WESTERN” -Inspired by / DJANGO UNCHAINED

2-3 chunks of frozen pineapple

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 tsp. maraschino syrup

2 oz. rye whiskey

Polar Lemon Seltzer

Lemon twist, to garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple, syrup, lemon juice and whiskey. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a coupe, top with Polar Seltzer. Garnish with lemon twist.

 

“REVOLUTIONARY KIR” – Inspired by / LES MISÉRABLES

4 parts French white wine

4 parts Polar Raspberry Lime Seltzer

1 part Créme de Cassis (Blackcurrant liqueur or syrup ) Blackberries, optional garnish In an old fashioned coupe glass, add the currant liqueur or syrup and then the wine, and then the Polar Seltzer. Garnish if you wish.

 

“ACROSS THE ATLANTIC” – Inspired by / LIFE OF PI

1 large slice crystallized ginger

4 splashes bitters

Polar Vanilla Seltzer

Julienne ginger and add to glass. Add bitters, and then Polar Seltzer just before serving. Stir gently.

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play with your food: a very veggie world cookbook

My 7-year-old’s latest trick? Turning her dinner into her own culinary creations. Chicken and baked potatoes turns into “chicken boat wonders.” Bread folded over and dipped in salad dressing becomes “juicy bread.”  As much as it irks me that my daughter just can’t eat a meal without turning it into a project, I’m can’t say I blame her. I remember “sculpting” scoops of chocolate ice cream into igloos, while talking to myself in a Julia Child voice  when I was her age (don’t ask). And after being home sick from school recently, she became enchanted with the Food Network and now tunes into episodes of “Chopped” whenever she remembers (I kid you not). So with her birthday fast approaching, I thought a kid-friendly cookbook would be ideal. So when A Very Veggie World , from the makers of Country Crock and written by noted cookbook author Claire Crespo, recently landed on my desk, I knew I had just the right gift for my budding chef. Stocked with tons of meatless dishes, this cookbook features tons of fun ways to pair veggies with food you may very well already have in the pantry or fridge. Recipes vary from basic–“Beautiful Butterflies,” fashioned from squash and carrots–to the more hands-on, like “Pizza Flag, adorned with tomatoes, mozzarella and spinach. Accompanying each entry are glossy photographs that will have little ones salivating with hunger, even fussy ones who refuse to eat anything green.  Our favorites? Molecular Model Brussels Sprouts and Mt. Veggie Volcanoes. Sounds like a science lesson in the making…

In a Nutshell: Please pass the peas. This family cookbook may put a stop to the “no dessert until…” argument once and for all.

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