08 November 2011

The Phantastically Multipurposed Phyllo!

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Cooking with my child is a daunting task I have yet to fully embrace. Cooking for my child - different story. I have an exceptional eater on my hands, who loves fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, vegetables in many a form, and savors consciously-concocted sweets. Easily my favorite ingredient to cook with for myself and my son is Phyllo (sometimes also seen as Phylo, Fylo, Fyllo, Filo, Fillo... it's that sheet dough probably sold in your grocer's frozen doughs and desserts section near the pie... Also know as near-impossible to make at home).

Phyllo dough? Like the stuff you make struedel with? Yep!

Here are some basic tenets holding true regarding Phyllo in my house...
1. Anything can be made into a Struedel.
2. Anything can be made into a flaky pillow.
3. Phyllo makes a delicious munchie snack eaten by itself or brushed and warmed with butter and/or spices.

This is the extent of Niko's helping-abilities in the kitchen...

So what is Phyllo? It's a very thinly stretched dough made of unleavened flour, water, oil, and white vinegar or raki. It is typically used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, with many European nations also have dishes that call for it. Most commonly thought of, yes, is struedel.

Phyllo is super convenient, very moderately priced, and as a bonus, also comes in an organic varietal. Pillows or pies can be made that are akin to an enveloped sandwich; Struedal is a delicious, self-contained dessert (or meal!). It's clean, it's easy, it's super tasty!

Some items of interest when cooking with Phyllo - it dries very quickly, so you must always keep a dampened tea-towel covering the unused portion but your towel shouldn't be too damp because wet Phyllo is impossible to salvage. Phyllo tears easily, so, again, it should be kept moist but not wet. One sheet of Phyllo is never enough. Phyllo's best friend is butter - not margarine, not vegan toast spread, not anything that is buttery yet not butter.

With that out of the way, here are a couple of my Phavorite Phyllo Phashionings...

A Good Dinner Idea: Lamb & Feta Struedel
Makes 2 Rolls, Enough for Dinner for 2 Adults + 1 Little One, with Left-Overs (maybe)
What you will need...
-8 sheets of Phyllo dough
-Lamb - about 1/3-1/2 lb - I like getting one shoulder cut, but you can use ground, meat from riblets or legs, or even use a different meat or protein if you like.
-1/2 cup Portobello or Crimini Mushrooms - Sliced
-1 cup Fresh Baby Spinach (you could used frozen in a pinch - just make sure it's drained well... cut it down to about 1/3-1/2 cup frozen)
-1/2 Onion and/or 1-2 tsp Minced Garlic
-Seasoning (ie. Italian Seasoning, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Mint) and Salt to Taste

1. Heat up a small frying pan to Medium-Medium High. Mince your Garlic and/or Onions. Place approximately 1 tsp butter in pan and quickly add Garlic and/or Onions. Turn on your oven to 375-400 (or if you're like me... your toaster oven.)
2. Allow Garlic/Onions to begin to cook. After they become quite fragrant (5 minutes or so), add your lamb. If you have never cooked with lamb, a word of advice from a new lamb eater (and successful lamb cooker) - Lamb overcooks quickly. Your goal is to slightly more than sear it. You are going to want to pull it off pink in the middle (it'll cook more, no worries, but you want it off before it cooks through on high heat).
3. Turn lamb over when the first side is cooked - 2 to 3 minutes and likewise sear the second side.
4. Pull lamb out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Leave it alone for a minute.
5. DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR PAN OR THE GARLIC OR FAT! You can even cut a little smidge of fat off your lamb cut and throw it back in the pan. Trim your lamb of fat. Cut it into small strips and chunks.
6. Add about 2 tbsp Water to your pan. Add mushrooms and spinach (and other veggies if you'd like... asparagus would be good!). Let them cook for 5 minutes until some of the water has cooked off and the veggies have picked up the left-over flavor. Turn heat off and add lamb back into pan.
7. Separate your sheets of Phyllo dough into two piles of 4 sheets each. Butter your cooking pan (Old-School Corning/Pyrex pans work GREAT!) with a thin layer. Gently brush a thin layer of butter on one end of Phyllo.
8. In front of butter lining, add your filling. Sprinkle a little bit of spices over your filling - Italian Seasoning is great here! Gently roll your struedel, starting by folding over your buttered line then gently rolling forward. It can be helpful to prepare the Phyllo over a tea towel and using the towel to help you roll it up.
9. Place roll into your cooking pan. Brush a small amount of butter over the rolls (to your taste...). Cook at 375-400 for 10-15 minutes uncovered until the top is golden brown (to your liking). Remove, cool, and enjoy!

Here is an elementary pictutorial on rolling struedel. Please pardon my poor graphic design skillz.

A Good Dessert Idea: Spiced Plum Struedel
What you will need...
-4 sheets of Phyllo dough
-4-6 Pruning Plums
-Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Allspice, and/or Nutmeg (Spice according to your tastes and preferences - think "warm" spices)
-1/4 cup Sugar (any sugar you like... white, brown, sucanat) **optional**
-1 tbsp Molasses (Black-Strap preferred) **optional**
-1 package Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar **optional**

1. Wash and pit your plums. Slice plums into eighths then into 1/4" chunks. Place plums in a small cooking pot with 1/3-1/2 cup water over medium to medium high heat. Allow plums to reach boiling point, stirring constantly. After boiling for about 5 minutes with constant stirring, reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to cook plums to tenderness (but not quite mush). Add spices and sweeteners (optional) and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Prepare your Phyllo dough after plum mixture has cooled. Melt 1-2 tbsp butter. Place two sheet of Phyllo on a clean cutting board. With a brush or spoon, brush each margin with butter. Place second two sheets over first sheets. Brush with butter. With a spoon, glob plum filling from one end to the other lengthwise, leaving about 1 inch margin all around (or 1 inch on one side and 2.5-3 inches on the other).
3. With care, lift unplummed margin and place over the closest edge of plum filling. Roll the dough gently onto itself, stopping to brush with butter as often as you like. Once fully rolled, brush top with butter, place into a (you guessed it!) buttered cooking pan and sprinkle a little Vanilla Sugar over the top surface (don't use all of it!).
4. Place pan into a pre-heated oven set at 375ºF. Cook for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle remaining Vanilla Sugar over struedel, allow to cool, then dig in!

Wo ist mein Strudel?

You can also make either of these recipes into pillows in smaller pans or on cookie sheets by placing your filling in the center and folding the Phyllo in over it (with butter between the layers). You can also substitute any meat or veggies (choose veggies that aren't too "wet") for the dinner roll and any fruit combination for the dessert roll. Apples (fresh, butter, canned), grapes (jam/preserves), pumpkin (fresh, canned & sweetened), or cottage cheese with a little vanilla sugar are all great.

Phyllo is easy to use in a pinch, and hopefully your homestead comes to love it as much as mine has! I don't believe I'd ever recommend struedel on a daily basis, but its creation is a worthy exercise to be mastered as it can be a great way to get your family to eat a variety of new foods or things they wouldn't normally (like spinach!). Happy Struedeling!

What are some staples in your home? Tell me all about it! Share in the comments or on the FaceBook!
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 8 with all the carnival links.)
  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter's suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • "Mommy, Can I Help?" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food - it's a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn't cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa's making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won't eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children's favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What's Next? panicks about passing on her food "issues" to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family's relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M's first adventures with food.
  • The Night My 7-Year-Old Made Dinner — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! shares how her 7-year-old daughter surprised everyone by turning what started as an idea to play restaurant into pulling off making supper for her family.
  • Cooking With a High-Needs Toddler — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how Montessori-inspired activities and a bit of acceptance have helped her overcome hurdles in cooking while caring for a "high-needs" child.
  • Kids in the Kitchen – teaching healthy food choices — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her belief in the importance of getting kids into the kitchen using her favorite cookbook for kids to develop healthy food choices now and hopefully into the future.
  • Make Milk, Not War — Tamara at Tea for Three remembers the daily food fights as she struggled to feed a picky eater.
  • teaching baby birds about good food. — Sarah at Small Bird on Fire writes about the ways in which her family chooses to gently teach their son how to make wise food decisions.
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Baby or Young Toddler's Relationship with Food — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares simple ways to give your child a healthy beginning to her lifelong relationship with food.
  • Toddler at the Table: 10 Creative Solutions — Moorea at Mamalady shares tips for preventing meal-time power struggles.
  • How My Child Takes Responsibility During His Mealtime... — Jenny @ I'm a full-time mummy shares how she teaches and encourages her 32 months old son on adopting good manners and responsibilities during his mealtimes...
  • megan — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on!
  • How BLW has made me a better parent — Zoe at Mummykins shares how baby-led weaning has changed her approach to parenting.
  • My Budding Chef — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom is no cook but is happy that her daughter has shown an inclination and manages to whip up yummy goodies for their family.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: An Activity for Every Age — Gaby from Tmuffin describes how she keeps her kids busy in the kitchen, whether they are one week old or two years old.
  • The Phantastically Mutlipurposed Phyllo — Ana at Pandamoly shares how Phyllo is used to create enticing dishes at home! Anything can be made into a Struedel!
  • Kitchen Kids — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen shares her children's most favorite recipe to make, experience and eat.
  • Independence vs. Connection in the Kitchen: won't you please get yourself your own snack already? — Lisa at Organic Baby Atlanta wishes her daughter would just go make a mess in the kitchen. But her daughter only wants to do it together.
  • Grandma Rose's Kitchen — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter reminisces about her childhood and dreams of filling her kitchen with people, love, noise, and messes.
  • Healthy Food Choices for Kids — Jorje offers one way to encourage children to make their own healthy food choices at MommaJorje.com.
  • Cooking food to thrive rather than survive — Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales is trying to foster a lifetime of good food habits by teaching her children about the importance of avoiding junk, cooking healthy meals, and learning about the whole food process.
  • Evolution of a self-led eater — Sheila at A Gift Universe shares the story of how her son grew from nursing around the clock to eating everything in sight, without her having to push.
  • 10 Ways Tiny Helps In The Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explores the ways in which her toddler actively participates in kitchen-related activities.
  • The Complexity of Feeding a Child — Feeding children a healthy diet is no straight-forward task, but Lisa at My World Edenwild shares some general guidelines to help your child thrive.
  • Lactation CookiesThat Mama Gretchen shares a fun recipe that will benefit both mamas and babies!
  • The Best Books and Websites to Inspire Kids in the Kitchen — Need inspiration to get your kids in the kitchen? Dionna at Code Name: Mama rounds up some of the best books and websites that can serve as a source for ideas, recipes, and cooking with littles fun.
  • A 4-year-old's smoothie recipe — Jen at Grow With Graces and her son set out to make a smoothie without the usual ingredients. She let him improvise. See how it turned out.
  • Independent Food Preparation (My Toddler Can Do That?) — Megan at Montessori Moments shares simple ways for children to prepare their own healthy snacks.
  • Follow Your Gut — Amy at Anktangle shares her philosophy about intuitive eating, and how she's trying to foster her son's trust in his own inner wisdom when he feels hungry.
  • A TODDLER-STYLE LUNCH + RECIPEManic Mrs. Stone photographs how to have messy fun during lunchtime with a helpful toddler.


  1. Mmm, delicioso! I've always been intimidated by the prospect of failure with the delicate and temperamental Phyllo, but having recently conquered scratch-made pie crust, I think it may be time to experiment with its Mediterranean cousin. :) Thanks for sharing your recipes, which are written exactly as I follow any recipe: approximately.

  2. Oh Ana - these recipes look so mouth watering! I have never used Phyllo dough to cook with, but you've inspired me. Thank you for sharing them with us!

  3. Greetings from Malaysia! Hopping in from the carnival!

    Thanks for sharing! Love the picture of your cute little boy!

    ~ Jenny ( http://www.imafulltimemummy.com/ )

  4. Isn't this dough also used to make baklava? I love the stuff, but have never actually used it myself. Thanks for the pointers!

    Mmmm, flaky pastry...

  5. "This is the extent of Niko's helping-abilities in the kitchen..."
    Bwahaha! That cracked me up. It doesn't get much better for awhile, hate to tell you…

    What great ideas! I love phyllo, and you're inspiring me to go wrap up some things. I also greatly enjoyed your use of so many "ph"s.

  6. Yum, yum, and yum! Methinks I will go out and buy a package of phyllo to have on hand! I have a question, though: at one point, you mentioned to put butter between the layers. Do you actually do that? Do you brush butter between the layers when making the roll ups or just go ahead and lay the layers on top of each other and roll them up?

  7. Gaby, If you want super-duper flaky and sinfully delicious struedel, butter it up between each layer. I usually just butter between the layers lightly at the margins so it sticks together nicely. Sorry for not clarifying!

  8. I have phyllo but have never known what to do with it and found it very daunting. Thanks for letting me know how easy it is. I gotta get that stuff out of my freezer and try something with it!