Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Veggie Toppings

These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.

Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.

Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.

Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

You can’t go wrong with ricotta! Keep reading for our recipe for Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Vegetables….

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

We’ll keep things short and sweet today, which seems appropriate considering that we’re writing about Pineapple Coconut Smoothies. Simple ingredient list (three, including ice cubes); simple steps (put ingredients into the blender and purée). But we deserve simple because today is the first day of The Stout Sprout’s summer vacation.

The last day of the 2013-2014 school year was this past Tuesday and both our Sprouts are treating this first day of summer break like Christmas morning. No alarm clock, no lunches to pack, no backpacks to load up. Ah, the life…at least until summer camp begins.

What better way to celebrate the day than with a tropical treat combining fresh, sweet pineapple with creamy coconut milk. Thrown in the blender with some ice cubes and the resulting smoothie is a G-rated drink reminiscent of a piña colada but specifically tailored to the under-21 crowd.

Cool, frosty pineapple coconut smoothie

Cool, frosty pineapple coconut smoothie

Get our recipe for Pineapple Coconut Smoothies here and start planning your next vacation while you sip away.

Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Call it what you will: hummus, hummous, hummos, or even حمّص بطحينة (that’s chickpeas with tahini, in Arabic, as translated by the wonderful contributors at Wikipedia). But whatever name you choose to embrace, this dish — with the addition of marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers — is something you’ll want in your entertaining repertoire going forward. Trust me — we’ve made this once so far this season and have already been asked to share the recipe!

Keep reading for more about our Artichoke and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, including step by step directions for making it.

Easy Oven Fries

Of all the things into which a potato can be made — baked, mashed, au gratin or scalloped, to name a few — lucky is the potato that ends up as a fry. Beloved by children and ketchup manufacturers the world over, the french fry is both simple and complex. The ingredient list is short and the reward is large. Crunchy, crisp, steamy and creamy, the humble fry brings it all and is content with playing a supporting role on the dinner plate. Who ever heard of “Chips and Fish,” after all?

Get our simple recipe for Oven Fries here!

Nachos! This is what leftover chili looks like in The Stout Sprout kitchen….

Here’s a little Friday freebie. Not one of our traditional recipes, really, but a suggestion to help you get through a busy weekend. Make a pot of chili — our favorite traditional chili is the All American Chili from Cooking Light, but we also love our Beef, Bacon and Chocolate Chili for a complex, not-so-spicy-but-very-tasty version. After you’ve enjoyed several bowls, buy a big bag of tortilla chips (Xochil is still our go-to brand) and some grated Monterey Jack/cheddar cheese. Open up that jar of pickled jalapeños sitting in the back of your pantry. (We were lucky — our panty is hiding several jars of pickled jalapeños and Serranos that I canned last fall, fresh from the Cherry Grove Organic Farm outside of Princeton, NJ.) And make a BIG plate of nachos. I’d bet many of you have made nachos before so this is just a reminder about how easy they are to make and how much everyone loves them. Especially during the weekend. For lunch. For dinner. Or, if you’re adventurous, for breakfast with a fried egg, sunny side up. Yum.

Love nachos? Click here for the full recipe.

Very Berry Granola (No Nuts!)

If Necessity truly is the mother of Invention, how do you think Invention acted in those early teen years? Was she — and I’m taking some liberties here, but in my mind Invention is surely a young lady — subject to hormonal angst, locking herself in her room and writing bad poetry? Did she skip school or stay out too late, or bleach a blond streak into her hair as I did at 13? And how on earth did Necessity stay sane during all that?

Maybe Necessity was married to Ingenuity, which would explain a lot. Or maybe she sequestered herself to the kitchen, baking batch after batch of treats like granola, which, when offered at just the right time to a hungry (a.k.a. irascible) daughter, can go a long way towards restoring peace and order.

If, however, Necessity were to have packed some of the aforementioned granola in Invention’s lunchbox, she’d better have paid attention to those “no peanuts, no tree-nuts” warnings many schools enforce. After all, she wouldn’t want Invention’s friend, Anaphylaxis, to end up in the emergency room. Again.

Well, Necessity, do I have a recipe for you. Very Berry Granola. No nuts. No coconut either (which is NOT a tree nut, but sill on the naughty list at our preschooler’s daycare). It’s also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Great for lunches. Great for snacks. Great in the morning with some milk or yogurt. You get the picture.

Very berry granola – get the recipe now!

Homemade Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups

It’s Valentine’s Day The Stout Sprout style. Those of you who have been following us for a bit know that this winter has been one for the history books. We had another record snowfall event this week, which meant another snow day, which meant we had two lovely little ladies kicking around the house ready to wreak havoc.

We channeled that energy into cooking something special for Valentine’s Day: our own homemade fruit leather, aka fruit roll-ups. This is definitely one of those recipes you should try on a day when you’ve got extra and abundant time, though it is incredibly easy and kid-friendly. The ingredient list is short, the participation factor is high, and the results are delicious. It does take quite a few hours in a low-temperature oven so be warned: best to start this project in the morning if you want to be nibbling fruit roll-ups for dessert.

Get the recipe for homemade mango-strawberry fruit roll-ups here.