Stormy Dinners

Lights, power… back in the kitchen! Aaahhhh- so nice to have heat again – and an oven, and a refrigerator and TV for the kids!

Our first night with power we ordered takeout since there was nothing in the fridge except some questionable cheese and other assorted items that needed to be discarded. We really need to stock up but the supermarket is still on generator so we are cooking this week with whatever we can get. Hopefully the empty shelves will be replenished soon and I can get back to cooking for my little monsters.

We are extremely grateful to all of our friends who hosted us for delicious dinners while our power was out. I am proud to say all three boys were fairly gracious and did well at most of those meals…. Most, not all, but it was a stressful week!

One of our friends asked if her meal would “make the blog” so this one is for you, Rebecca! The boys loved her version – let’s see how mine does….

Real Chicken “Chicken Nuggets” with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

(when I made this there was no chicken available yet at supermarket. I substituted thin sliced pork loin, which work well but be careful not to overcook)

2 eggs

2 tbsp ketchup

2 cup seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

1 cup flour

2 tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper

 
Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (easy clean-up)

Whisk together eggs, ketchup and 2 tbsp of water.

Make an assembly line of three shallow dishes: one with flour, one with egg mixture, last with seasoned breadcrumbs.

Cut chicken into 1” strips and season with salt and pepper. Dip first into the flour, shaking off excess. Then dip into the egg, shaking off excess. Finally, dip into the breadcrumbs.

Set the breaded chicken on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake approximately 8 minutes on each side depending on thickness of chicken.

While chicken is baking make dipping sauce: Mix together mayo, honey and mustard in small bowl.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: I love the chicken and I love love this dipping sauce!

Dylan: This sauce is too mustirry! Is there bones in this??

Liam: I will only eat the chicken – the sauce hurts my eyes.

Note: Although I did mention after they ate that the nuggets were pork not chicken, no one seemed to care, they had already moved on to dessert….

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Carbo-loading

It’s been a long four months of training but the moment has finally arrived. 4 more days till the NY marathon. Hurricane Sandy tried to interfere but at the moment it looks like the race will go on! I will not miss the long runs but I will miss getting to eat anything I wanted afterward. Since this is the last week of training I get to carbo-load to my heart’s content- poor me.

We have been without power since Monday but we can cook so there will be lots of pasta this week!

I had some mini meatballs already frozen in the freezer that were rapidly defrosting. So spaghetti and meatballs it will be! Kids love anything mini and I love that I can add some veggies to them. Seems like a win – win to me but of course anything can happen with our little crew.

This recipe has a ton of vegetables – since we are eating by candlelight they won’t even notice!

Pasta and Mini Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs:

2 small cloves garlic

1/2-cup fresh spinach leaves

1 large carrot or 10 mini carrots roughly chopped

1 small onion roughly chopped

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 lb. Ground turkey

2 eggs

1/3-cup milk (2% or whole)

1-cup Panko breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper

Sauce:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 28 oz can of crushed or pureed tomatoes

1 lb dried pasta

Note: Any shape works here unlike Mac & Cheese (see previous post on Oct. 19)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the garlic, spinach, carrots, onion in food processor to make a paste.  Reserve 1/2 of paste for the pasta sauce and add rest to a large mixing bowl. Add ground turkey, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, basil and oregano, pinch of salt and pepper. Gently knead with your hands to combine. Form small meatballs approximately 1” diameter. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Make the sauce – heat olive oil in sauce pan and add the remaining vegetable paste. Cook down for about 5 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and add meatballs. This recipe yields about 40 meatballs so the balance may be frozen.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to directions. Drain the pasta and then top with meatballs and sauce. Top with grated cheese.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big bro): This is yummy Mommy!

Liam (little bro): Can we blow the birthday candle out?

Dylan (little bro): Whose birthday is it Mommy?

Mac & Cheese

My kids are always asking me for macaroni  & cheese so the other night I pulled out a cookbook and decided to make a fancy version. It had Gruyere and mascarpone cheese, rigatoni noodles, and lots of butter- YUM. I couldn’t wait to make it and watch them gobble it up. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out as I had hoped… When I served this decadent, delicious dish, much to my surprise, I had an absolute MUTINY on my hands.  “This is not Mac & Cheese!” “The pasta is the wrong shape!” “Why isn’t it orange?” It was pretty brutal. But I wiped away the tears and gave it another shot.

This time I tried to go simple. I stuck to elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese. I was determined to turn this around! How could I serve my kids pasta and cheese and have them rebel? It just didn’t seem possible…. So back to the drawing board…

“The not so fancy version of Mac & Cheese”

Ingredients

1 lb dried ELBOW macaroni

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk (2% is fine too)

2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp hot sauce

Salt & pepper

1/2 cup seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

2 tbsp butter

Directions

Cook macaroni according to directions. Drain and set aside. This can be done ahead – just be sure to toss some olive oil in with the pasta before it is refrigerated.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in saucepan – when hot reduce heat to medium and add flour, stirring constantly. Add the milk a little at a time until it is well combined. Let the sauce come to a simmer and then add 2 cups of cheese and mustard. Whisk until cheese is completely melted. Stir in hot sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In separate pan melt butter and add breadcrumbs. Heat until breadcrumbs are lightly toasted.

Put pasta into baking pan, add sauce and stir until well combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. And then sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of that.

Bake until lightly browned and bubbly – about 25-30 minutes.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (tough critic): “What are these crumbs on top!? No crumbs!”

Dylan (even tougher critic): “I don’t eat crumbs!”

Liam (the worst critic of the bunch): “I HATE mac & cheese”

I wish I was joking but that was the verdict. The breadcrumbs did me in! Happily once I scraped off the offensive “crumbs” they did eat their dinner. And Dylan even ate 2 servings of broccoli so all in all a SUCCESS!

***

Eating Out – Bedlam Style

A typical dinner out for our family usually means one or more of our kids on or under the table, at least one spilled drink, a meltdown or two, ending with ear shattering pleas for dessert. We are not always so sure if the people next to us are annoyed, amused, scared or just happy they have no kids.

Why do we keep doing it? It is usually fun to take them somewhere new they haven’t tried before. Even if most of the time they are saying how yucky the food is. They just get so ridiculously excited by the idea of eating in a restaurant; it is hard to deny them. And every once in a while the stars are in alignment and we have a great meal.

Sometimes these outings are quite successful – we leave feeling proud of the kids for trying new foods and letting us enjoy a glass of wine without having to scream at them to stop kicking each other. Other times (actually MOST times) we run out so embarrassed that we have to avoid the place for at least a month. This is usually enough time for another family to come upstage us in the bad behavior department.

Our last excursion was pretty bad on the sliding scale so I tried to recreate one dish the boys did like that night since we can’t go back for quite awhile!

Chicken Rollatini (easy version)

Ingredients

1 lb thin chicken cutlets or turkey

12 slices prosciutto (thinly sliced)

1/2 cup spinach leaves

2 cups mozzarella (shredded)

6-8 oz. tomato sauce or pasta sauce

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper*.
Pat dry chicken cutlets and season with salt and pepper. Layer each cutlet with a slice of prosciutto and then some spinach leaves. Sprinkle generous heaping of mozzarella cheese on top and then roll cutlet.  Place seam side down onto baking sheet * and top with tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

 

Bake for approximately 25 minutes. If desired top with any remaining sauce and/or cheese. Or use on some pasta for a quick side.

  • These can also be cooked in a baking dish – the cheese will not ooze out as much. But my kids like the way it comes out on the baking sheet – nice and messy.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (big brother): “DEElicious”

Dylan (little brother): “I only like the burnt cheese part”

Liam (little brother): “I ate a lot! Now can I have dessert???????”

FARMERS MARKET

One of our favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is hit the local farmers market and get some fresh fruit and try a strange vegetable we haven’t had before. What is it about those samples that will get my little monsters to try just about anything that is offered? I literally had to swat them away like flies from the shishito peppers this week. Maybe it is the toothpicks that can be turned quickly into a mini sword to stab each other with? As long as they are lining up to eat some kale I am happy to let them have a few sword fights!
Their favorite booth hands down is the Pickle Man – we never leave without an overflowing container of pickle chips that are immediately devoured with lunch. It could be that this is the place with the most samples, but the man who runs the booth also engages with the boys and gives out pickled peppers like candy. I just stand and cringe as other customers watch with mild disgust as my boys dirty hands reach into the bin before I can stop them!
Here is an easy dish I make to get them to eat all those veggies once we are home:

Farmers Market Chili

This week we bought Lita squash, which is similar to zucchini but sweeter.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. ground turkey

1 large yellow onion (grated)

2 medium Lita squash (grated)

1-teaspoon cumin

1-teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if available)

1 can black beans

1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)

Salt & pepper

 
Directions:
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, breaking it up with wooden spoon as it browns, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and zucchini (squeeze out excess water) and cook until most liquid is evaporated and vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cumin, garlic salt and cayenne (add more pepper if you desire), and stir for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans *, bring to boil. Add corn and then reduce heat and let simmer until thickens, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
* My boys don’t want to see beans or large chunks of tomatoes so I throw these into the food processor to break them up a bit. This way they know it is there but are not offended by it and won’t throw themselves to the floor in a screaming tantrum.
– Serve with tortilla chips or just add a little grated cheddar on top.
Voila! And barely a vegetable in sight!
   
And the VERDICT is:
We had a play-date and served this for dinner.  It was a huge hit and seconds were had by almost all- here are some of the comments:
Jaume (age 4 – serious Spiderman fan) – “Is there seaweed in this?” (guess I didn’t hide the Lita squash enough – but he did have 2 bowls!)
Shauna (age 5 – budding foodie) – “That was some delicious chili!”
Liam (age 3 – pickiest eater at the table) – “Take out the corn” – 2 minutes later…. “I love the corn, Mommy)