Category Archives: Recipes

Kids Culinary Creations for the Holidays

Hot Cocoa

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location:
Michelle Stern is the owner of What’s Cooking, a Certified Green business that offers healthy and seasonal cooking classes and birthday parties to children of all ages in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her online shop you’ll find unique sustainable gifts and party favors as well as What’s Cooking Weekly, an online menu service offering recipes, grocery lists and tips on making cooking with your kids fun and simple.



Filed under Cooking with Kids, Holidays, Recipes

Making Halloween a Little Less Scary

With Halloween right around the corner, I have been giving a lot of thought to the menu for our annual block party. We are hosting the party at our house this year, and I hope to serve some delicious finger foods to fill up our bellies before hitting the streets.

I haven’t settled on the menu yet, but here are some items that I am considering:

  • Vampire Drool
  • Orzo with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
  • Sticky and Slightly Spicy (Bat) Wings
  • Spiced Pecans
  • Marinated Mini-Mozzarella (eye) Balls with Pita Crisps
  • Sour Cream and Scallion Dip with Sweet Potato Chips and Carrot Fingers
  • Mummy Pizzas that the kids will make themselves (Just pull apart string cheese and lay it on an English Muffin topped with a little marinara…Add some sliced olives for eyes and voila – you have a mummy pizza!)
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Brownie Cake – Absolutely delicious! (We had a bit of buttermilk left over from waffles this weekend, so I used that instead of the sour soy milk she recommended.)

Update: Here are some photos of our food from the Halloween party.  Pictured, you will see Vampire Drool with a Green Ice Hand, Marinated Mozzarella Eyeballs with Pita Crisps, Orzo with Roasted Vegetables and Bat Wings.  Everything was a hit, although I was reprimanded by my daughter for not making enough Bat Wings.  They were gone in a flash!

Vampire Drool with a Green Ice Hand      Marinated Mozzarella Eyeballs    Orzo with Roasted Vegetables     Bat Wings

Although I can control the quality of the foods I’ll be serving at home, I can’t control what will be doled out by the neighbors.

Kids are often afraid of the sights and sounds that meet them when the doors at each home creek open…but the truly frightening experience lies in the ingredients of the foods that they are collecting: partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, alkali, chemicals, artificial colorings and more…

There is no sense in banning candy – that will only make everyone want it more (parents included…admit it!). But it might be worth a few moments to read some of the labels in your stash, just to see what you are consuming and how it will affect you. It just might help prevent you from over-indulging.

In some homes, parents have created a wonderful compromise – Kids select a few of their favorite treats to keep and trade the rest with you for a toy, trip to the movies or some new books.

If you would like to promote a Healthier Halloween yourself, leave the candy at the store. Instead, pick up some flower or herb seed packets, pencils, colored markers, stickers or small card games to distribute instead.


Filed under Meal Planning, Musings of a Cooking Teacher..., Nutrition and News, Recipes

But Canned Pumpkins Are So Much Easier…aren’t they?

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location:



I am a recycling nut. When I was a teacher, I started a paper recycling program for the whole school. At home, we have separate bins for food waste, paper and plastics/cans. Because of my neurotic tendencies, I cringe when Halloween is over and there is a perfectly good pumpkin drooping on my front porch. Even though canned pumpkin is so affordable and convenient, would it be possible to recycle the pumpkin that I already have?

Here is the scoop (forgive the pun!):

There are special “Pie Pumpkins”, which are smaller, sweeter and smoother in texture than the one you purchased or harvested this Halloween. They are about 8-inches in diameter and are typically available from September through the early part of December. If you wish to purchase one of these specifically for cooking, look for one that is bright orange in color, firm and has no bruises or soft spots.

However, if you are eager to recycle your Halloween pumpkins and make them a part of your culinary festivities, you can easily do so! You may simply need to add some additional brown sugar or maple syrup to your recipe to compensate for its lack of sweetness.

How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree:

  1. Cut out top of your pumpkin and clean out all seeds and strings from inside.
  2. Slice pumpkin vertically into 3 inch wide strips.
  3. Place strips onto a baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour.
  5. Once done, scrape the pumpkin from the skins, then beat with a mixer or puree in a food processor until smooth.

Save The Seeds:

  1. The seeds can be used either to plant pumpkins next year, or roasted to eat this year!
  2. Place them in a bowl of water and rub them between your hands. Pick out the orange pieces that are floating, and discard them.
  3. Drain the water.
  4. Spread the seeds on a dish towel or paper towel to dry…and voila! They are ready for next year’s planting or to roast.

Give It A Try:
Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread

2 cups flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup mashed cooked fresh pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
6 (1 ounce) squares BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices until well blended; set aside.
  2. Beat eggs, pumpkin, sugars, milk and oil in large bowl with wire whisk until well blended.
  3. Add dry ingredients; stir just until moistened.
  4. Stir in chopped chocolate.
  5. Pour into greased 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  6. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Cut into slices to serve.

Servings: 15


  • Measure cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Crack eggs (in a separate bowl, so it is easier to fish out stray egg shells)
  • Measure sugar, brown sugar, milk and oil
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices
  • With adult supervision, use a hand mixer to blend eggs, pumpkin, sugars milk and oil
  • Fold wet and dry ingredients together until combined

Nutrition (per serving): 253.6 calories; 28% calories from fat; 8.6g total fat; 35.5mg cholesterol; 239.9mg sodium; 141.7mg potassium; 41.8g carbohydrates; 0.8g fiber; 20.8g sugar; 41.0g net carbs; 4.4g protein.


Filed under Cooking with Kids, Eco-Friendly, Recipes

Creepy Cuisine and Potent Potions

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location:

Halloween - Jack O’Lantern

While preparing for some upcoming kids Halloween Cooking Classes, I realized that you might appreciate a few recipes for Creepy Cuisine and Potent Potions that weren’t quite as sugar and fat laden as the majority of recipes you’ll find online.

Vampire Drool

Red Juice, your choice (cranberry, pomegranate, cherry etc)
Bubble Water
1 pkg frozen organic cranberries
1 latex glove
1 cauldron

  1. Pour water into a latex glove. Tie the end, and put it the freezer (be sure to store it flat, so that it retains the shape you want).
  2. When frozen, remove from the freezer and peel off the glove.
  3. Combine juices and bubbly water in a cauldron
  4. Add the frozen “hand” to complete the brew

Worms and Eyeballs

1 small onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
3 Tbs ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb ground dark turkey meat
3 Tbs olive oil
marinara sauce
1 can black olives, pitted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend. Mix in the turkey.
  3. Shape the turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs.
  4. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Use an egg slicer to slice the olives into rings.
  6. Place one olive ring on top of each meatball, pressing lightly. This makes it look more like an eyeball!
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the inside is no longer pink and the juices run clear.


  • Peel paper off the garlic cloves.
  • Crack egg.
  • Squeeze ketchup
  • Grate and measure cheese
  • Pick parsley leaves from the stem and tear into small pieces.
  • With clean hands, combine all of the ingredients and shape into balls
  • Wash hands afterwards
  • Slice black olives and press onto meatballs
  • Wash hands again.

Strawberry Monsters

4″ sucker sticks
Candy Melts (your color choice)
Black decorating gel

  1. Insert lollipop stick into strawberries and place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes, until they are cold.
  2. While the berries are chilling, heat one cup of candy melts, in a double-boiler, stirring constantly until completely melted.
  3. Remove the berries from the freezer and dip them lightly in the melted candy for a thin coating.
  4. To get a Mummy look, swirl them a bit to look like layers of white wrapped around it. Ghosts can be dunked to make a little twisted peak on top. Frankenstein can be dunked and a spoon used to flatten the candy on top.
  5. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment to cool and harden. You can refrigerate them if you would like to speed this up.
  6. After they harden, you can add faces. Using black decorating gel and a toothpick (as your brush), draw a spooky face.


Use green melts for Frankenstein, Orange for Jack-O-Lanterns & white for ghosts and mummies


Filed under Cooking with Kids, Recipes

Homemade Granola…Crunch!

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location:

As seen on View From The Bay, (Healthy School Lunches segment) on October 3, 2007

Everyone would make their own granola if they knew how simple and inexpensive it was! The sky is the limit on the variations you can do with this recipe. Simply follow the basic formula and let your imagination do the rest. Don’t forget to Call the Kids into the kitchen to help you with this culinary creation.

4 cups oats (not quick cooking)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs sesame seeds

Optional Ingredients:
1/3 cup Dried Fruit, such as cranberries, raisins or currants
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (without shells)
1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds
3 Tbs flax seeds
1/4 cup dried and shredded coconut
1/2 cup nuts: chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans or cashews


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  3. If using, add shredded coconut, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine honey, oil and vanilla.
  5. Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Pour the granola mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring gently every 10 minutes, so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
  8. After the mixture comes out of the oven, add any dried fruit of your choice: currants, raisins, or cranberries
  9. Once the mixture has cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Cooking Tips

  • Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and dried fruits can both be purchased in small quantities in the bulk section of many grocery stores. They are much less expensive this way.
  • Flax seeds and walnuts are high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which play a crucial role in brain function as well as growth and development.
  • By making your own granola, you are saving lots of money. Granola and granola bars can be expensive. Plus, there are no wrappers to dispose of!

Call The Kids:

  • Measure oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  • If using coconut, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, have the kids measure these too.
  • Measure oil, vanilla and honey and stir to combine
  • Using clean hands, mix wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Spread granola onto a rimmed baking sheet
  • Add dried fruit to cooled granola and stir to combine

Recipe Source: What’s Cooking (


Filed under Cooking with Kids, Meal Planning, Recipes, School Lunches, View From The Bay

What’s Cooking Fans from the SF Bay Area…Set Your Tivo!

Michelle, owner of What’s Cooking, will be doing a Healthy School Lunches cooking demonstration with her two children.

Details: Wednesday, October 3
Time: 3-4 p.m.
Show: View From The Bay on ABC

View From the Bay

Click on the logo above to be linked to the segment, online. Let us know what you think!
Check out our Store to see the products featured on the show.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking with Kids, Recipes, School Lunches, View From The Bay

Do You Always Eat Such Good Dinners?

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location:


Good Dinners

Yesterday after school, we had my daughter’s friend, Emma, over for a play date. Like most multi-tasking mothers, I started getting ingredients for dinner ready while they were playing. Emma kept coming into the kitchen to stare at my ingredients and to ask questions. When I told her that we were making Asian Lettuce Wraps, she wanted to know why I liked to make foods from other countries. I happily explained how fun it is to try new foods. She leaned over the steaming pot of pad thai noodles and loved that they were almost invisible…I am so lucky to have a career that sparks such enthusiasm in kids!

When I found out that her mother was running late, Emma ran to the table to eat dinner with my kids. After the first bite, she asked, “do you always make such nice dinners?” I looked at the table and had to laugh. It was simple and took less than 30 minutes to prepare. But it made me realize that before I began meal planning, I made the same things over and over again. Emma explained that she was tired of the foods she got for dinner, and asked me if I could tell her mom what I did to the food to make it taste so good.

When her mother came to pick her up, her stood wide-eyed as the kids asked for seconds…and thirds, and ate their asian broccoli slaw! She admitted that until she saw Emma eating with such gusto, she hadn’t realized that she was in such a food rut. She started asking questions about What’s Cooking Weekly, my online meal planning service for families, and decided that she would give it a try. Even if she just tried a few of my menus, or simply added some of my sides to her existing repertoire, she said it was still a good value. She was also excited that she would start saving money on groceries, since she would go into the market knowing what she was looking for.

She nearly had to drag her daughter away from the table when I said that I had to save the rest of the food for my husband, who hadn’t arrived home from work yet.

So, what was that simple menu that caused such a sensation?

Asian Broccoli Slaw:
1 bag broccoli slaw mix from Trader Joe’s
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. sesame oil
2 Tbs. sesame seeds

Combine dressing mix and pour on salad, to taste.
Yes, that’s it!

Pad Thai:
This is embarassing – I used a package from Trader Joe’s that was in the back of my cabinet for 6 months. The kids loved it, and it was so easy that I’ll use it again. Next time, I might add some scrambled egg, tofu and maybe some julienned bell peppers or carrots.

Asian Lettuce Wraps:
1 pound ground turkey
1 can water chestnuts
1 small red onion
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
Juice from 2 limes
1 Tbs. brown sugar
Large lettuce leaves (bibb lettuce works well)

  1. Dice water chestnuts and red onion. Combine in a bowl, along with the oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, salt, lime juice and brown sugar.
  2. In a large skillet, begin to brown the ground turkey. After 3 minutes, add red onion mixture.
  3. Cook until the turkey is done.
  4. Serve by putting the turkey mixture on top of a lettuce leaf. You can wrap them like a burrito, or like a taco. Either way, be prepared for some of the filling to fall out. The kids loved the fun and challenge of eating their food like this!
  5. Serve with Asian broccoli slaw, pad thai noodles or steamed brown rice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Meal Planning, Musings of a Cooking Teacher..., Recipes