Life’s Questions

In this country, football is as much a part of Thanksgiving as is the turkey. Since I always cared more about eating than playing sports, the televised games were always background noise to me. It was something that the “guys” would watch while my sister and I hung out with the ladies sneaking tastes of all the delicious food in the kitchen.

I didn’t realize that watching Thanksgiving Day football was so deeply rooted in our culture until my kids learned about this tradition at school. Having three boys I decided I should brush up on this phenomenon so I could answer the inevitable question; “Why do we watch football on Thanksgiving?” I am sure it will be right up there in importance to them as “Is there a God”? “Is there really a Tooth fairy” “Where do babies come from”- so I thought I should be prepared.

I was surprised to learn that the tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving dates back to the 1800’s. The first Thanksgiving Day game was played in Philadelphia in 1869 and the tradition has continued yearly to this day. And the football is not limited to the TV. Apparently, there is modern day tradition called the “Turkey Day Bowl” which is played by families and friends on their own lawns. I know Brian can’t wait to get our little football team on the field and partake in this ritual. He has been coaching the boys for months now and they can definitely catch a football better than I can. Although that is not saying too much…

And another one of life’s questions: “Why do people like to eat chicken wings when they watch football?” I did some preliminary research into this but was unable to come up with much on that one.

Parmesan Chicken

– This recipe works great for wings or drumsticks, whichever is your family’s preference.

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs chicken drumsticks (about 10 pcs.)

Salt & pepper

1-cup flour

2 eggs, plus a few Tbsp water

2 cups seasoned panko breadcrumbs

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with foil and a baking rack. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Set-up breading station: Place flour in a shallow dish. In a second dish, whisk the eggs with a few tablespoons of water. In a third dish, combine the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and the garlic.

Coat the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next dip in the egg.

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And lastly, place in the breadcrumb mixture. Press the crumbs firmly to the chicken and place on baking rack.

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Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes until crispy and chicken is cooked through. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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And the VERDICT is:

Mattthew (age 6): “The breadcrumbs ruin the taste of the chicken – not a big fan”

Liam (age 4): “I like the breadcrumbs and the chicken A LOT”

Dylan (age 4): “The breadcrumbs are good but I don’t like the chicken”

Not a touchdown with this one, although there were only 2 pieces left after dinner!

Gone Fishing

Summer is here and so starts fishing season. There is a local watering hole nearby that is the perfect spot for our little gang. The water is shallow, the fish are small and there is ample space for them to run around. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement even though I don’t enjoy storing worms in my refrigerator!

Initially when Brian recruited me to go I was not all that enthusiastic. I just pictured flying hooks getting stuck into little limbs; yucky worms slithering about, and at least one accidental fall into the lake. Neither Brian nor I relished the thought of wading in the mucky water to rescue one of the kids.

But miraculously none of the above happened. What did happen were three little boys casting their lines, sitting in absolute SILENCE, legs dangling off the dock, patiently waiting for a bite. I have been hooked ever since!

Granted, when someone catches a fish all hell breaks loose as everybody jumps into action to help reel it in. But those moments before the fish bite there is a hypnotic calm that overtakes our clan and I love it. I try to appreciate these pockets of quiet time because they are truly rare around here.

This week in celebration of the season I am cooking up a childhood favorite, except I am getting my catch at Fairway instead of from the Gorton Fisherman.

Fish Sticks w/Tartar Sauce

Ingredients

Tartar Sauce:

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 pickle, finely diced

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt & pepper

 

Fish Sticks:

1 lb. Tilapia, or any firm white fish, skin removed, cut into 1” strips

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp lemon pepper seasoning

Kosher salt & pepper

Olive oil

Lemon wedges

 

Directions

Tartar Sauce: In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, diced pickle, lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let set in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Fish Sticks: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Pour buttermilk in a large bowl. In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs with lemon pepper seasoning.

Dip the fish sticks into the buttermilk and then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to coat completely.

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Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until crispy and fish cooked through. Serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “These fish sticks are AMAZING! What does Tartar mean?”

Liam (age 4): “Can I dip these in apple sauce instead?”

Dylan (age 4): “I don’t like the tick tock sauce but these chicken fingers are yummy”

I walked away from the table for literally two minutes to search for the answer to Matthew’s question. In that time the boys consumed the entire serving (1lb!) of fish sticks – I will definitely be making these again!

And the answer is: Tartar sauce was named after the Tatar peoples of Mongolia. The sauce was originally devised to be eaten with steak tartare, but is now usually served with seafood.

Matthew wasn’t too interested in the explanation; he had already moved onto dessert….

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Dining on the High Seas

This year my parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary and to mark this momentous occasion they took the whole family on a Caribbean cruise. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about setting sail with our brood for seven long days. But it turned out to be a fantastic voyage.

There are lots of fun things to do on a cruise but by my calculations about 90% of the time is spent eating.  And by eating I mean, elaborate three-course meals, even for breakfast. If you don’t like to EAT – a cruise is not the vacation for you!

We ditched the kid’s menu and took the opportunity to have the boys try new foods every day. Personally I’m not a fan of the kid’s menu. But that’s a topic for another day….

The menus had endless options to sample. If the kids didn’t like their order, another meal was always around the corner so no worries they would go hungry. We did bribe with dessert at every meal (including breakfast!), so they were “on board” to try most of the dishes. In the end, no one ever left the table without eating something, even if it was only the fresh baked sourdough rolls (big hit!)

One standout was Chicken Cordon Bleu – quite a fancy name for breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese! We had such a relaxing dinner that night – no whining -no tears – so clearly this is something to try at home.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Pickle Chips

Ingredients:

For the pickles:

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4-cup rice wine vinegar

3 small cucumbers, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds

 

For the chicken:

8 chicken breasts, skinless & boneless, thin sliced

8 slices ham, thinly sliced

8 slices Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced

1-cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt & black pepper

3 eggs

2 cups panko bread crumbs, seasoned

2 Tbsp butter, melted

16 toothpicks

 

Directions:

Combine salt, sugar, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl. Microwave for 15-20 seconds and mix well until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cucumbers, cover and let sit until chicken is cooked.

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Top each piece of chicken with a slice of ham and cheese. (If you are not starting with thinly cut chicken flatten the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.) Roll up and tuck ends; secure each side with toothpick.

Make your assembly line: In first shallow bowl place the flour, season with salt and pepper. In the next bowl, whisk the eggs, season with salt and pepper. In third bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and melted butter.

Dip each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, and gently coat in the breadcrumbs.

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Place on baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and cooked through.

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AND THE VERDICT IS:

Matthew (age 5): “Mmmmmmmmmmm,… more please!”

Liam (3 days till age 4): “Yummy, I feel like we never had this before… Dylan, why do you like pickles so much?

Dylan (3 days till age 4): “I love pickles – I was born like that”

I might just send this recipe to Royal Caribbean – maybe they can add it to the kid’s menu!

 

Happy Anniversary to my amazing parents!

Happy Anniversary to my amazing parents!