A Little Help From My Friend


I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when I started showing an interest in cooking, thanks in part to the 4-H Club in my elementary school and to my mom for letting me help when she was in the kitchen.  I started out making simple things like cookies, biscuits, and corn muffins and I was also responsible for tearing up the cheese slices for my mom's homemade mac & cheese, which was a very important task because that was some seriously good stuff! 

I'm always delighted when Boy Toy's 10-year-old daughter wants to help me in the kitchen.  She already has some really good slicing, chopping and stirring skills and so far her attention span is long enough to pretty much see a project through until the end (minus the cleaning up part, of course).  She doesn't know it yet, but she's getting her own apron for her birthday in March.  Shhhh! 

When working with kids in the kitchen, you have to keep in mind that they are probably going to make a mess and it may not turn out quite the way you planned, but that's okay because the whole point is to get them involved and keep it at their level.  Show them, teach them and fine tune their skills and know that you are teaching them a life skill that will benefit them many times over. 

I had to whip up a quick appetizer for a New Year's Eve party (quick because I had totally forgotten that I was supposed to take something), and I chose these Spicy Sausage and Cheese Tarts that I found on Pinterest from Plain Chicken.  I like Plain Chicken's blog because she has alot of "Football Friday" recipes that are perfect for entertaining or watching sports and I've bookmarked alot of her stuff because Boy Toy occasionally has friends over during football and baseball season and I'm always looking for quick and easy "dude food."

My sous chef pretty much completed this task all by herself - she chopped the pepper, browned the sausage and then mixed all the ingredients together.  She did a bang up job of filling the phyllo cups and even decorated the tray and plated them.  She claimed the whole time that she didn't like sausage and even when she tried one after they were baked she said she didn't like it, but I'd almost swear I saw her sneak one later in the evening when she thought no one was looking. 

Could you say "No" to this tray of treats? I thought not. 


Spicy Sausage and Cheese Tarts
inspired by www.plainchicken.com

1 lb pork sausage
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz Spicy Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
5 (2.1 ounce) packages frozen mini phyllo shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sausage in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink.   About halfway through cooking the sausage, add bell pepper.  Drain.

Combine the sausage, cheese and Spicy Ranch dressing in a large bowl.

Fill each phyllo shell with a heaping teaspoon of the sausage mixture. (Freeze at this point, if desired.)

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese melts. (Add 2-3 minutes to baking time if baking frozen tarts.)

Makes approximately 75 tarts.

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