Monday, March 26, 2007

I do NOT like them, Sam I am.

Introducing new foods to kids can be a battle. When our kids turn their noses up at something new we always say, "Sam I am." B knows she has to try it AND swallow it. She may not eat it AGAIN in "a box with a fox," but she has given it a chance. "Try it, try it, and you may" get your kids to eat something new.

Speaking of Dr. Seuss, B just went to Seussical the Musical with her Grandma M on Friday. She loved it. She was singing songs from it the following morning and was ecstatic that she got to shake hands with the Cat in the Hat. I think she is officially cooler than me. This is incredibly embarrassing to admit (well, it would be if I got embarrassed), but I have only seen two concerts: 1) Whitney Houston and 2) Hootie and the Blowfish. B has already seen High School Musical, Disney on Ice and now Seussical the Musical. (She was disappointed she missed seeing Wicked with us). Sure, I have seen a plethora of Broadway shows, but somehow I missed out on cool concerts like U2, Dave Matthews and such. What was I thinking? I have only met one person with a concert record that rivals mine. I won't say WHO it was (but you know who you are, Robert F. Schwartz), but the concerts were 1) Peter Breinholt and 2) Amy Grant. Can YOU beat those?

Back to Green Eggs and Ham...I hate eggs. Seriously. I would never tell that to our kids, but it is true. I remember dry-heaving when my mom would make me eat them. I have only known one other person with this weird loathing towards huevos--my oldest sister. Frankly, I think it's genetic.

However, I will eat THIS egg dish. Maybe it's because I call it Yellow Squash, Tomato and Mozzarella Tart. I have made this for baby showers, brunches, and even dinner. We had it yesterday morning when we had brunch with one of S's friends from high school and his sister. I made it a couple weeks ago for a playgroup and had many requests for the recipe, so here it is.

Yellow Squash, Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
Adapted from Bon Apetit September 2004

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 tomato, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 3 ounces)

For crust:
Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter. Using on/off turns, blend until coarse meal forms. Add 4 tablespoons ice water. Using on/off turns, blend until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on floured surface to 14 1/2-inch round. Transfer to 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Fold overhang in; press to form double-thick sides. Push sides up until 1/4 inch higher than top edge of pan. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze 10 minutes.

Line dough with foil and dried beans or pie weights. Bake until sides are set, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until crust is golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 15 minutes. Transfer crust to rack; cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

For filling:
Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add squash and thyme. Sauté until squash is just tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in bowl. Arrange squash over bottom of crust. Sprinkle with 1/2 mozzarella, place tomato rounds on top, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Place tart on a baking sheet. Pour egg mixture into crust, filling completely.

Bake quiche until filling is golden and set in center, about 35 minutes. Transfer quiche to rack; cool 15 minutes.

I have used fat free half and half instead of whipping cream, added asparagus, fresh spinach and Parmesan cheese. You can mix and match for your personal tastes. Now eat THAT "on a train in the rain."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I feel like chicken tonight!

A free meal is a good meal, especially after surgery or giving birth. Even if it's a casserole with tater tots and canned green beans, right? Errr, yes and no. A friend of mine was brought a week of meals by moms from her daughter's preschool. First night, mmmm, chicken enchiladas. Second night, a pan of cheesy... chicken enchiladas. Well, it continued for 4 nights in a row. She hated to feel ungrateful, but one can only take so many pans of cream of chicken enchiladas. They ended up freezing the enchiladas, and I have no idea if they were ever eaten. She and her husband laughed about what each mom must have been thinking when they were cooking them, "Hmm, what should I make her? Oh, I know, cream of chicken enchiladas are so yummy. I bet she hasn't had those for a long time."

Do you have a meal that you make whenever you haven't planned anything? Something you can throw together without even thinking about it, and you KNOW you always have all the ingredients. This is mine. I always have fresh parmesan, chicken (though sometimes it's frozen), and Italian breadcrumbs. That's all you need. Now you have a new meal you can throw together when your day has been busy.

Here is a sure win recipe for taking dinner to someone. It is easily reheated, kids love it, and it's easy. I first had this at a friend, Amy's house. It is a Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa) recipe found in her Family Style Cookbook. She recommends serving it on arugula, but kids love pasta, so we use whole wheat spaghetti and tomato sauce.

Parmesan Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
unsalted butter
Olive oil
Cooked pasta
Premade spaghetti sauce (I love some kinds at World Market)

For regular Chicken Parmesan:
Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick. (using a meat mallet or a rolling pin)

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a plate (I always use 3 paper plates--less of a mess). On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each sides, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

If you want you can serve it with arugula and lemon vinaigrette.

Lemon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For Kid Chicken Parmesan Sticks:
Lay the chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice diagonally into four or five large strips. Continue as directed with adult chicken (except pounding the chicken). Serve each strip on a skewer or stick. Serve with pasta, and sauce in a dipping cup.

You can keep cooked chicken warm in an oven of 200 degrees.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Somewhere Over the Jello

I was able to spend St. Patrick's Day in Dublin one year when I was on a study abroad in London. We went expecting a river of green, real leprechauns and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was actually a bit of a disappointment. Instead of the Lucky Charms guy parading down the street, I saw high school bands from the good 'ol US of A playing their tubas and trumpets. It was a green Fourth of July sans fireworks. Replace the beer everyone was drinking with this jello and it would have been a better celebration!

I make jello one time a year, so here it is. It is definitely worth the effort. The jello is one that I had as a kid and I was always so excited to get it. One year my mother-in-law came up with the idea to do it for St. Patty's day, but add the "cloud" and the "pot of gold." It completes the traditional meal of Corned Beef, Cabbage, Carrots, and Potatoes. Just make a little Irish Soda Bread, buy some Jones soda in green (Apple), white (okay, clear--Cream Soda), and Orange (we get IBC Orange Cream soda). Whaaalaaa. A fun themed meal. Just make sure to pinch anyone not wearing green.

Rainbow Jello

3 oz grape jello
3 oz berry blue jello
3 oz lime jello
3 oz lemon jello
3 oz orange jello
3 oz red jello (cherry, raspberry)
2 cups sour cream

Boil 1 cup water. Pour into a bowl and add 1 box of jello (starting with
the grape). Mix until jello is dissolved. In another bowl place 1/3 cup
sour cream. Add 1/2 cup of the jello water to the sour cream. Stir until
combined. Pour sour cream mixture into 9x13 pan. Place in fridge for 20 minutes or until firm. Add 3 T cold water to the remaining 1/2 cup of jello water. Pour over sour cream mixture in the 9x13 pan. Continue with all the other jello ending with red.

Serve with whipped cream on the side and rolos for the pot of gold (or any other candy wrapped in gold foil, such as almond kisses or gold coins).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Daylight LIFEsavings

I love this time of year! Daylight savings proves to me how much energy the sun gives me! Monday was beautiful and this week is supposed to be GORGEOUS so I had to grill last night. Our grill still gets used when it's snowing outside, but there's something about grilling with the sun shining and the kids running around in the backyard. I was also missing Charlottesville and the days we would hang out on our front steps laughing and talking as the kids rode their scooters and trikes. So, this meal is inspired from a dish I would get at Cville Coffee. It is this quaint little coffee house where we would go (even though I don't drink coffee) to just talk while the kids climbed all over a huge wooden turtle. We had fun eating it last night pretending to eat worms and ate our "nests". We are definitely getting in the spirit of Spring!

Grilled Chicken with Peppers, Snow Peas and Carrots with Noodles in Peanut Sauce
Served in Wonton Bowls

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 T olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 chicken breasts

Marinate for 1 hour. Grill over medium-igh heat for 10 minutes each side, until cooked through. Slice on the diagonal and put aside.

While chicken is marinating make wonton bowls:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick muffins tins (or spray with cooking spray) and place two wonton wrappers in each full-size muffin tin (you can use 1 eggroll wrapper instead). If using miniature muffin tins use one wonton wrapper. Spray with cooking spray and add a little salt or sesame seeds. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.

1/2 Red Pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 Yellow Pepper, thinly sliced
15 snow peas
1 carrot, peal outside and then peal in long strips

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Pour veggies in water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain.

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 garlic cloves
3/4 inch ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender. Pour into a small saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 8 minutes).

Cook noodles according to package instructions. (I have used asian rice noodles, fettuccine noodles or even just rice)

Pour peanut sauce over noodles and veggies. Add chicken. Serve in wonton bowls. Or you can just place rice on the bottom of the wonton bowls and add veggies and chicken in the peanut sauce.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Top of the muffin to you!

Have you ever seen that Seinfeld? You can relate almost every incident in life to a Seinfeld episode, so here I am doing it. Basically the episode talks about how good the top of the muffin is and they open a store just selling the tops, but they have issues figuring out what to do with the "stumps". Well, let me tell you the tops of these muffins are DELECTABLE! (the stump is pretty good, too). Yesterday we had a playgroup at our house with about 10 moms and 17 kids. Of course I made food. It wasn't anything extravagant because I wasn't sure what the snow prediction would amount to. We settled for: Chocolate Croissants, Pear Granola Muffins, Squash, Tomato and Mozzarella Tart and Fresh Fruit. The kids downed the croissants, fruit and muffins. I think the moms horded the tart for themselves. B didn't get any muffins so we decided to make some more. They were still delicious.
Here's the recipe. I adapted it from Martha's Food magazine.

Pear Granola Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (this is just what I had--the original recipe had plain)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 D'Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1/3 cup granola (I had vanilla almond from Trader Joes so I used that)

For Granola Crisp Topping: (or use 3/4 cup plain granola)

1/2 cup granola
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin (I used some mini--just be sure you dice the pears smaller)with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, and butter. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add egg mixture to well, and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the granola and pears.

Make Granola Crisp Topping: In a bowl, toss together 1/2 cup granola, 1/4 cup each all-purpose flour and packed light-brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter into pieces; add to granola mixture, and rub in with fingertips until clumps form.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Sprinkle with granola topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

So, enjoy! But I think you should all try cutting off the top and eating it separately, just for Elaine's sake.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Wind Beneath my Wings

wing grab, originally uploaded by One of the many Mudricks.

If I ever want to schmooze S I get him some chicken wings from Clyde's. He is an official chicken wing connoisseur. We have tried wings from EVERY place that serves them. We have had fire to jerk chicken. Hooters--"Hey, I've heard they have good wings." We always joke about HOOTERS being known for their wings, but neither of us have made an appearance there before. I have thought about going to HOOTERS to get wings to-go for his birthday or Valentine's, but then the feminist in me shines through.

Well, thanks to a friend (Mel) we have found a cure for Sam's wing addiction. Well, not a cure, but a way we can cook them ourselves. Wings are ideal for kids. Not the healthiest meal, but lots of fun. Even a nine-month-old loves to gnaw on the bone. I've changed a few things to make the wings less spicy for kids (although mine eat them how we do), but just make theirs first, add some hot sauce and finish yours!

In my early college years I stopped eating chicken. No, it wasn't for animal cruelty, it was because of twin 6 year-old boys and "movie star kisses". Short story, shorter... they ate some of the Colonel's chicken for dinner, and then kept trying to kiss my face. Let's just say I hated the Colonel for more reasons than "his wee beady eyes and the addictive chemical in his chicken" (know that line?). I smelled like chicken for hours and had a greasy, greasy face.

If I wasn't already eating chicken again these would have helped me get back on the gravy train.

BBQ Chicken Wings
makes approx. 32-44 wings

1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T paprika
1 T chili powder
2 T mustard (I have used regular and Dijon)
1/2 bottle of traditional BBQ sauce
1/2 bottle of honey BBQ sauce
2 cups hot sauce (optional)

2-3 cups Canola oil
32-44 chicken drumettes or "party wings" (or full wings if your grocery store doesn't have drumettes--you can use kitchen scissors and cut them)

Mix ingredients (except oil and chicken) in a big bowl. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in large stockpot to 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer and attach to the pot during whole process). Using tongs, place chicken drumettes in hot oil (you will need to work in batches, just reheat the oil to 375 before adding a new batch). Fry for 6-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip wings in BBQ sauce mixture. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Serve with celery and blue cheese dressing.

To make it a meal I steam broccoli, cook brown rice, and have fresh fruit or make a spinach salad.

The picture shows the BBQ Wings, Lemongrass Wings and Baby Broccoli