Harmony from Hominy...A light meal during the holiday frenzy

With Hanukkah swiftly approaching I thought I'd get out my oil and start frying! I figured my kitchen would smell like oil for the next few days so what is one more day? With all the preparations going on sometimes we just need something quick and  easy.  We love soup, the flavorful brothy kind the best when you are sick or cold kind. 

I talk a lot about texture for kids, I think it is important to teach them about different textures. This is a perfect soup for that, crisp tortillas, soft beans, chewy hominy and zucchini, makes a perfect warm meal. The flavors are mild and simple,  when your kids decide they like it,  you can add more ingredients the next time you make it.

I did not write a recipe for this but here is what I did:
Add about 1 inch of vegetable oil to a straight sided pot or skillet. Heat on high until it shimmers, reduce to medium high.
Stack about 5 corn tortillas and cut them into strips. Drop one in the oil to test, it should sizzle and cook quickly. When you fry, the faster the food cooks the less oil it sucks up, the better it will taste.
Drain them on a paper towel and set aside.

This is a quick soup so,  I started with canned chicken broth and added some ground chicken and onions to improve the flavor. Adding ground chicken will give you great chicken flavor in a flash. After the chicken is fully cooked strain it out and save it to use in hash or something else. You can leave the meat in but some kids find the texture strange.
Canned broth can be salty so taste before you add salt.
Add drained Great Northern beans, a can of drained Hominy and  a few diced zucchini.  
Cook it on medium until the zucchini is tender but still holds it's shape about 10 minutes.
Serve with a handful of tortilla strips and a sprinkle of dry cheese if you want.

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Last weekend I was lucky to be invited to make apple sauce with 100 1-6 year olds at the Jewish Community Center.  The trick was, how do we peel and prepare 50 apples half way so the kids could mash it into sauce and still feel like they participated. The answer, the apple peeler, slicer, corer and a big pot.
There's nothing better or faster for peeling, slicing and coring apples than this tool. It's great for peeling pears and potatoes, too. A suction base grips your counter top making it easy for little ones to help. We had one when we were small in the 70's, and they haven't changed. My whole family went into gear for this project, I washed, and they peeled and sliced! The apples come out cut into a large spiral so we broke them in half before they went in to the pot. 
We got all the apples done in about 1/2 hour. I stewed the apples in a bit of water and a squeeze of lemon. 
We transported the 4 pots of half cooked apples and by the time we arrived they were perfectly soft. I gave each child a bowl, 1/2 and apple and a fork. They mashed, added cinnamon and nutmeg and topped the warmed pre-made latkes with sour cream and the apple sauce. It was a big hit even the little ones were able to participate. My dad was visiting and he had a ball running around taking photos of the sticky kids.
I love this time of year because it reminds me of all the traditional foods we grew up with. It is about making food with friends and family. Find your foods and teach your kids a tradition to carry on into their adulthood.

I will share my own personal recipe for Latkes. Hanukkah is all about oil so we fry and fry and fry! Latkes are best eaten warm, as the are cooked one after another!
Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. 

Home Style Latkes
Recipe by: Jennifer Carden
Author of The Toddler Café

3 Tbs all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 small onion
1-2 cups vegetable oil
For serving
Sour cream

Whisk the flour, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Grate the potatoes on a fine or small grating disk in a food processor, alternating with the onion.
Mix the potato onion mixture into the egg mixture with your clean hands.
The mix will be soupy, it is OK, and there is no need to drain it.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium until a bit of mixture dropped in bubbles. Be sure not to let the oil start to smoke-you want a shimmer only.
Using tongs or large slotted spoon and gently drop the mix into the hot oil. Fry until edges are brown and crispy. Remove with tongs draining oil over pan.
Drain pancakes on brown paper bags or paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on top.

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Mommy Makes Cassoulet the Easy Way!

A rich warm meal for the whole family without the hours of cooking.
Cassoulet usually involves, duck and pork and sausage of some sort, here is my simple recipe for a look alike! If you like you can add bread crumbs mixed with a bit of olive oil on top and you broil the dish for an added crunch. Wait to add salt until the end because the salt pork adds a lot of salt to the dish.

1 chicken cut up
2 inches salt pork, diced
Pure olive oil
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 chippolini or pearl onions, quartered
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbs thyme, fresh
1 Tbs celery seed
1 bay leaf
1 cup mushrooms quartered
1 can white beans (such a Great Northern), drained

Preheat oven to 350 ˚F
Coat hot Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown chicken on medium heat in a batches in Dutch oven
Remove chicken, drain grease and set aside.
Add bacon, barley, all onions and garlic, stir to coat, add broth all herbs and mushrooms.
Cook covered in 350˚F oven until chicken is tender. About 1 hour.

Remove lid, add beans tuck under chicken so they don't burn.
Broil uncovered 5- 10 minutes to crisp skin.

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