Monday, November 5, 2007

Giada's Kid's Menu Hits Close To Home

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis

Kid Friendly Dinners
Veggie Stuffed Pancakes
Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes
Pizza Pot Pies

To get the recipes:
Well, well, well. What an appropriate show for Giada. Saturday's Everyday Italian was Kid Friendly Dinners. Little did we know that she was expecting her own little one as we watched. I assume SHE knew, because this was a new show and she's 18 weeks pregnant. But whatev...Let's see what she came up with.

The show starts with her amazingly telegenic family of kids and grown-ups playing on a beautiful lawn. Then I think there was a new opening. Giada looks just beautiful.

She starts with the tomato sauce for individual pizza pot pies. She heats olive oil in a pan and adds 2 oz of cubed pancetta, reminding us that it's not smoked and so it's a little sweeter for the kids. She adds garlic and freshly chopped rosemary with salt and pepper. She stirs in San Marzano tomatoes and simmers the mixture for 15 minutes.

For the filling, she combines 1 1/2 cups diced mozzarella and 2 cups of broccoli, cut into small pieces, talking about how you can hide the veggies in the filling. Giada didn't really chop the broccoli finely enough. You can still tell what it is, which is the bugaboo of kids everywhere. (She's got plenty of time to learn.)

This vegetable-hiding is quite trendy now, as in this book and this one...I'm not taking sides, although one DID come out months before the other. But they always say there are no really NEW recipes.)

She adds 2 cups of chopped chicken from store bought rotisserie chickens and the tomato sauce. That's okay, but Ina would have just roasted 2 whole chicken breasts deliciously and used that. Giada fills 10 oz ramekins almost to the top with the filling.

Okay, I get that she's making cute little individual pot pies for the kids, but who has 10 oz. ramekins? Really! And don't you feel as if a kid might take a few bites and then leave the rest? That's a pretty big serving. I would make it in a larger dish, a pie plate or even a rectangular gratin dish and serve it from there. But I do see that the individual servings are much more attractive.

Giada rolls out 1 1/2 lbs worth of store-bought pizza dough (I can live with that) to 1/4 inch thickness. She cuts circles out to fit the ramekins, about 4 inches across. She presses the dough on top, covering the top edges of the ramekins completely. She brushes them well with olive oil, cuts a little slit on top and grates Parmesan over each one. She likes that it sticks to the olive oil and makes a nice crust. Into the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

Next, she's already made 12 pancakes...FROM A MIX! She did this once before and I went wild !@#$%!!! Giada, we don't watch you to see you cook from a mix!

She takes out the pot pies. Very pretty.

For the pancake filling, Giada adds olive oil to a skillet and sautés an onion with garlic and salt and pepper. She tells us to season each layer. She adds chopped carrots with a bit more S and P and frozen spinach which has been thawed and drained. (Ina would have added chopped baby spinach, and frankly, it's a lot less bother than squeezing out mushy frozen spinach.) She adds some chopped tomatoes and basil. Note: I, personally, would have softened that onion A LOT more before adding the spinach.

Now she adds an entire container of mascarpone with some Parmesan cheese to the vegetables. Half the mixture will be the filling for the pancakes the other half will become the sauce. I can't help but feel that any good done by the vegetables in this filling is mitigated by the high fat of the mascarpone. And there's a perfectly good substitute. Use a low fat or even non-fat ricotta in its place and you'll have a creamy filling that will won't break the day's bank of fat calories.

Giada fills each pancake with a spoonful of the mixture and rolls it up tightly. They go into a buttered baking dish (Pam is fine) and she sprinkles some cheese over. The other half of the vegetables go into a blender with some milk. She blends until smooth. The not-terribly-attractive mixture gets poured over the top with some more cheese and baked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. (The recipe says 350. it really doesn't matter.)

The other thing you could do with this recipe is to use giant shells or manicotti, instead of pancakes from a STORE-BOUGHT MIX. OR, I suppose if you were a Cordon Bleu trained chef, you could MAKE YOUR OWN! Oh wait, she is and she didn't.

I love Giada to pieces, but store-bought pancake mix is not acceptable under any circumstances. I'm sorry if I've lost some of you here, but, really, there is no excuse. It is my number one bête noire.

UNTIL I saw THIS recipe...OH MY!!! What is happening to our Giada? She is using a store bought CAKE MIX to make cupcakes. Do we really need to see her adding water, oil and and eggs to a mix? Whoop-Dee-Do! Boy, her classical training is really showing here. Where is Ina when we need her?

If I were interested in using a mix, I would be watching Rachael Ray or even worse, Sandy. If Giada doesn't have the time on the show to make real cupcakes, then just tell us to use our favorite recipe or find one from the FN website.

Giada pours the cupcake batter (the store-bought batter) three quarters full into liners in a muffin pan and bakes them for 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Those ARE the most attractive cupcake liners I've ever seen, though.

She processes a filling of mascarpone, strawberries, lemon juice and some sugar. She places the mixture into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Why does it have to disposable? (Funnily enough, on Ina's show right after (a repeat), The Contessa is buying a young friend her very own piping bag and set of tips, so she can practice at home.)

The outside tables get set with paper and crayons. Giada starts the cupcake icing by making a syrup out of 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water AND 1 teaspoon of vanilla. She COOKS the vanilla. NO, don't do that. Add the vanilla after the syrup leaves the heat. No matter what any recipe tells you for the rest of your life, NEVER heat vanilla extract. NEVER. You lose all the flavor and it can get bitter.

She sticks the piping bag tip almost to the bottom of the cupcake and fills each one with the mascarpone filling. (The recipe says to do it from the bottom, but you're icing them anyway, so you'll be covering up the hole at the top.)

She serves lunch. The kids are eating at a separate table. (Is that really necessary?) They like everything. She brings out the cupcakes and lets them ice them themselves. That's a good idea. They eat with gusto.

In case you couldn't tell, I did have a problem with this episode. The message seems to be that if you're JUST cooking for kids, you don't need to do it from scratch. I think it should be if you ARE cooking for kids, it's always preferable to put something homemade into their little pure bodies. They have their entire lives to pollute themselves. Let's not do it for them.


Donny B said...

I had no idea she was pregnant! That's great. But can you imagine her ta-ta's getting even bigger now? Good lord, she'll tip right over.
And yes, I'm kind of over her using all those mixes, too. In fact, the whole pancake recipe sounds a little gross. I'm feeling okay that I missed this recipe.

Sue said...

Hi Donny,
I have to say I'm kinda proud of myself. I posted news of her pregnancy BEFORE People magazine.(See my earlier post.) Actually, it's kind of pathetic...

I didn't want to mention the other thing...I'm glad you did. Yes, it will be interesting to see what develops. But she looks fabulous and that baby will be stunning.

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

I have to say that the store brought pizza dough bugs me a little. I'm just picky I guess, I like to make my own dough. I've been noticing lately that yes, she does take alot of shortcuts! It makes me less willing to watch her but when I have time, I try.

I have to agree with you that I think her baby will be a winner!

Sue said...

Hi Val,
You know, I complained about so much in this show, I just couldn't bring myself to whine about that too. But it is pretty awful that Giada of the famous Roman DeLaurentiis family hasn't been making her own pizza dough lately. (I made up that part about Rome, but it could be true, in fact I think it is...)

Yes, that will be some baby, alright.

Anonymous said...

I watched Giada make donuts out of pizza dough. It looked really easy so I made them at home. Then only after making a whole batch and tasting them, I realized that pizza dough was salty, and rightly so. But it made the donuts very salty and weird. I wish should could've mentioned this on the show.

Sue said...


I agree with you. She should have at least commented on that.

You know, everyone in the universe adds a touch of salt when baking sweet things. I never do and I can't say I've missed it. But it does make me think a lot of things are salty.