Thursday, October 22, 2009

15under15 PART I

The other night, a fellow playgroup momma asked how I cook dinner with the Henster at my feet. Sadly, I had to tell her that most of my "real" cooking happens after he goes to sleep. Right now, our schedule doesn't allow us to eat dinner together as a family. H is hungry at 5:15. Mark isn't home until 6:30 or later. So, I prepare dinner for H at 5ish. Daddy comes home and then I start on Dinner II. Someday our timing will work out... and so I ask,
"What WILL I be able to accomplish in the kitchen with a hungry, grouchy toddler grabbing at my apron strings???"
Reports from the frontline (moms with toddlers a few months older than H) are not good... Tantrums, diaper bombs, burned roux. Just terrible!!
I vow that I will not go into battle unprepared! (Where the heck did this war metaphor come from??)
Behold, my...

Fifteen kiddie-and-foodie-friendly meals that can be prepared in under fifteen minutes, without sacrificing flavor or flair!
I've divided the list into five parts, with three menus each.
Modifications for toddlers and kids are at the end of every recipe. 
 Part I
~Chicken Scallopini with Brown Butter Caper Sauce, Angel Hair Pasta, Lite Caesar Salad
~Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus, Buffalo Mozz and Tomato Salad
~Curried Chicken Salad Wraps with Chana Masala

Chicken Scallopini with Brown Butter Caper Sauce
1 pkg chicken, thin sliced, milanesa style (available at HEB) This dish can also be made with pork or veal cutlets.
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c chicken stock or broth
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Heat oil in large skillet over HI heat. Sprinkle both sides of chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Cook chicken, turning once, 2-3 minutes per side. (If pan does not fit all pieces, cook in two batches.) Transfer cutlets to a plate. Add butter to skillet over MED heat. Stir and cook until butter is browned, 1-2 minutes. Add stock and scrape browned bits from bottom of pan. Add capers and lemon juice. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve with angel hair pasta (very quick cooking!) and Fresh Express's Lite Caesar Salad Kit.
Kiddie Mod: Cut chicken and pasta into small pieces to serve. Let toddler try dipping lettuce bits into dressing. Caution: Croutons from salad mix are a choking hazard.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus
1 pkg refrigerated fettuccine, such as Buittoni
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp jarred garlic, or 1 minced garlic clove
1/2 stick butter
kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup parmesan-reggiano
Cook fettuccine AND asparagus in the same pot, according to pasta package directions, adding salt to water. When pasta and asparagus are cooked, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then quickly drain pasta. While pasta is cooking, bring cream, garlic, and butter to a simmer in a large skillet, over medium-low heat. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper. Add pasta/asparagus mixture, reserved water, and cheese to sauce. Toss. Serve with sliced buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and evoo, and sprinkled with kosher salt.
Kiddie Mod: Cut pasta and asparagus into small pieces. Balsamic vinegar may be too strong when drizzled, so put a tiny drop on child's plate or tray for dipping. He might find a new favorite flavor.

Curried Chicken Salad Wraps and Chana Masala
1 pkg chicken, thin sliced, milanesa style (HEB sells this) OR 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup miso dressing (in refrigerated dressing section), or mayonnaise
1 small box raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
kosher salt
1 head iceberg lettuce
Cook chicken cutlets. (Options: 1)Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 2) Poach in boiling water until cooked through 10 mins. 3)Saute in skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil (10-15 minutes)
Allow to cool, then shred. In large bowl, combine dressing and curry powder. Add in chicken, raisins, carrots, and poppy seeds. Stir until dressing coats chicken and ingredients are evenly combined. Add salt to taste. Separate whole leaves of lettuce from head, wash carefully. Serve salad in lettuce cups with a side of warm, fragrant chana masala.

For Chana Masala (My version of a favorite Indian veggie dish)
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion
1 tsp cinnamon
kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer medium low 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. 
Kiddie Mod: This menu is perfect for kiddos who can chew... but you may want to remove raisins and carrot strands for the youngest set. Garbanzo beans can be slightly mashed for younger tots.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Whoo's Gonna be the Cutest Owl on the Block?

I'm following Martha's recipe for adorable avian attire this year!
We'll see how long the wings last... and the hat... and the goggles... Okay, so he may just look like a kid with white felt zigzags all over his chest.
But, he's still be the cutest kid on the block!

Chili con Carne et al

So... I've been running behind on recipes ever since my "sick week."

I'll try to catch up!

We had a big late summer harvest of jalapenos and anaheim peppers. Plenty for a spicy chili and accompanying jalapeno-cheddar cornbread. Both recipes are modified from The Joy of Cooking.

Chili con Carne with Beans and Jalapenos

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 lbs ground "chili" meat (a coarser grind)
1-2 tsps salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion, plus more for topping
10 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2-6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chili powder- see recipe below*
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice (San Marzano)
4 cups water
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Season meat with salt. Heat oil in a large pot over med-hi heat. Add onions, garlic, peppers, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, until veggies are softened, 6-8 mins. Add meat and brown, pouring off excess fat, if desired. Stir in chile powder. Cook for 2 mins. Add in tomatoes and water, breaking the tomatoes with spatula or back of spoon. Add beans. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours. Sauce will be reduced and thickened.

*Chili Powder
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 clove minced garlic

Combine in a small bowl. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Stove-Top Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread
I had never cooked cornbread on TOP of the stove before. It came out a little crispy on the bottom, soft and light throughout. Sooo good! And I didn't have to wait for the oven to pre-heat to 425!
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
Wet (all at room temperature):
2 large eggs
3 tbs melted butter
1 cup milk
4 jalapenos, two seeded and chopped, two un-seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar
butter (for greasing pan)
Combine wet and dry ingredients with a few quick strokes. Fold in jalapenos and cheddar. Scrape into a generously greased iron skillet. Cover with foil and cook over very low heat 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Menu for the Week

Monday- Taco Salads with Jalapeno Ranch
Tuesday- Mommy's Night Out
Wednesday- Top Chef Night-Out (It's time for that Robin lady to go HOME!)
Thursday- Beef Stroganoff with Homemade Spatzle
Friday- Out with the Hubby!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red River Rivalry

 It's a wonderful coincidence that UT and Autumn colors go hand in hand!

Hook 'Em Horns!

Event: UTvOU Football Game

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries
Fresh Fruit
Potato Salad
Hummus and Pita Wedges

We've found that good old ground chuck makes the best burger. Just toss in a little kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, combine, and form patties. Be careful not to overwork the meat. Just lightly pat it into shape. 

For a great burger topping combo, I look to Shoal Creek Saloon for inspiration. Their Reynaldo Burger is topped with grilled jalapenos and onions and cheese of your choice. (I go with American for this one.) Hot off the grill and spicy, it's an amazing burger!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries
3 lbs sweet potatoes, washed, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chipotle powder (or chile powder)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Toss potato wedges in oil and spices. Spread out on foil covered baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 25-35 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

(Un)Inviting Exterior Decor

Gotta get ready for the trick-or-treaters! (Actually, we only get, like, three or four trick-or-treaters each year... so the decor is really more for us and our guests!)

This year I caved and bought some of those fake pumpkins. The sad thing is, they were cheaper than the real ones, and our Texas "Fall" isn't too kind to decorative gourds. Don't worry, pumpkin farmers! We're still gonna buy some real pumpkins to carve!

I custom painted the owl door hanger (from Michael's.) It was black and didn't really show up on the door. The white "branches" are just cut from white cardstock. Just use painter's tape to adhere to the door.

The giant spiders are from Target (last year.) They held up pretty well to the elements. And to the staple gun I use to hang them. Tough critters!

The crow is from Dollar Tree... but my mom may have bought them all!

It's getting creepy around here...

Death of a Culinary Giant

I am still shocked about Conde Nast's decision to close Gourmet Magazine.... While I am not a long time subscriber- I've only received it in the mail for the past two years- I have become enamored with its recipes, food articles, and photography. Although it may seem intimidating and fussy, Gourmet, in its later years, evolved into a stove-side guidebook. Its recipes, on the whole, were exotic but real enough for a Tuesday night.
I'm not sure what new mag the publishing company will decide to stick me with to finish out my subscription... but it definitely won't be Gourmet.
For the next few weeks, I'll pay tribute to the late food mag with some of my Gourmet favorites.

Spooky Silhouettes

Halloween is the time to let your creative goblins go wild.

Today, I created from black paper cocktail napkins. They've taken over the house! Each napkin makes 6 bats, so one package is plenty. The napkins are not quite opaque, creating a haunting effect. You could substitute black construction paper.

Caution: You may have to call pest control...

"Cocktail" Bats

1 package black cocktail napkins
bat pattern (1/2 of bat shape... or you can freestyle it with the scissors for a less uniform look)
scotch tape/adhesive dots
dried branches
big, heavy vase (filled with water or sand if branches are too heavy)
Find folded side of napkin and draw pattern along that line. Cut along pattern line. Once cut, carefully unfold and separate bat silhouettes. For a hanging bat, bring two wings in towards body and secure with adhesive dot. Use tape or adhesive dots to arrange on  dried branches in a vase or let them fly freely on walls, furniture, windows...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Simple Curry

One more post before I turn in for the night....

(and I do apologize for the lack of visuals... didn't much feel like getting out the camera last week.)

This dish is another new fave. (Modified from Cooking Light Mag)

Green Curry Chicken
(for 2)

1 cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
1 lb chicken breast, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 tbsp green curry paste (such as THAI brand... found it at Central Market) + or - the amt accding to your liking
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk, divided
2 cups tricolor bell pepper (CL recommends, and I used) pre-chopped mix... makes this dish easy-peasy
cilantro sprigs (optional)

Cook rice according to directions. Heat a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1/4 tsp salt. Add chicken to pan, saute 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Stir in curry paste; cook 1 minute, stirring. Stir in 1 cup coconut milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in bell pepper, 1/4 salt, and remaining coconut milk. Cook 3 mins or until peppers are tender. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Not So Fabulous Beer Braised Beef... OUT OF THIS WORLD POT ROAST

I know... how could it not be so fabulous?

Beer... Beef... Braising... Well, it was very good. But not my favorite pot roast of all time. So instead of giving you a recipe that I could easily forget, I'll share my FAVORITE pot roast. (Drooling...)

BTW the Beer Braised Beef recipe was from CL mag... and so is this one... modified a bit though.

Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast with Gremolata
(NOTE: Start roast in morning...)

For the Pot Roast:
1 (2 1/2-3 pound) boneless chuck roast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp FG black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
cooking spray
2 c chopped onion (about 1 large)
1 can beef broth
1 cup red wine
1/4 c sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
4 thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1inch pieces
2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1inch pieces

For the Gremolata-
If you are thinking, what's this? Do I really need to make this too? The answer is a very firm YES! To me, Pot Roast without gremolata now seems one dimensional and heavy. Gremolata will change the way you look at braised meat. :)
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 garlic clove, mince

To prepare roast, sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over med-hi heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add roast to pan, cook 5 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Transfer roast to slow-cooker. Recoat skillet with cooking spray. Add onions and saute until tender. Add broth and next 6 ingredients; bring to a simmer. Add broth mixture to slow cooker. Arrange carrots and potatoes around roast. Cover, cook on low for 6 hours, then high for 1 hour. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems; discard. Remove roast from slow cooker, shred with 2 forks. Arrange on serving dish with potatoes and carrots. Ladle broth over the dish.

To prepare gremolata, combine parsley and other ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over pot roast and  have on hand at table.

Fall in a Bowl

Cooking Light's Two-Bean Soup with Kale will be a hearty addition to my soup repertoire. I did modify it a bit (I'll explain in the recipe)... so for the original recipe, you can go to their site.

Two-Bean Soup with Kale
Tomato Cheese Toasts

Two-Bean Soup with Kale

3tbs olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped carrot
1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
8* cups organic veggie broth
1 bunch stemmed, chopped kale
2 (15oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Heat a large dutch oven (I really put my two dutch ovens through their paces this week) over medium hi heat. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, celery and saute 6 mins, or until tender. Stir in salt and garlic. Stir in veggie broth and kale. (This is where I realized that CL's recipe called for only 7 cups of kale- or about a bunch. Mine must have been a very healthy bunch- about 10 cups. Not wanting to deal with leftover kale, I added it all. So then I had to almost double the amt of broth... so just follow my recipe- it makes more and you'll have no leftover greens.) Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 3 mins or until kale is "crisp-tender."Add beans and black pepper to soup. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat and stir in vinegar and rosemary.

Tomato Cheese Toasts
4 slices bread (I used multigrain french loaves... CL uses ciabatta)
1 tomato, sliced
4 tbsp parmesan reggiano cheese

Broil bread for 1 minute. Flip over. Add tomato slices and top with 1 tbsp cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

Back from the Dead

... and just in time to decorate for Halloween!

Well, turns out it wasn't H1N1. Thank goodness! Just some other no name bug. I am finally feeling normal again.

As promised, I've got to share my favorite soup recipes. Whether you're sick or not, these dishes really hit the spot!

Event: Sick Week

Mom's Chicken and Dumplings
Kale and Two Bean Soup with Tomato Cheese Toasts
Braised Beef with Root Veggies

Mom's Chicken and Dumplings (Serves two... all week...)
Note: There are many ways to make a dumpling... I grew up with flat, rectangular, slightly al dente dumplings, so this is generally what I make. Since I was truly under the weather, I cheated! Mark picked up all the ingredients... and a CAN OF GRANDS BISCUITS! Now, they weren't MY dumplings, and they certainly weren't my MOM'S dumplings... but they weren't half bad. If you're in a pinch or feel really lousy, go ahead and do it.

For the Broth:
8 cups water
6 cubes chicken boullion
3 bone-in split rib chicken breasts (skin and all)
4 carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into 3 inch pieces (or 2 cups baby carrots)
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
4 stalks celery, with leaves, ends removed, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 sprigs flat leaf (or curly if that's what you have) parsley
kosher salt
black pepper

For the Dumplings:
1 1/2+ cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper or chopped rosemary (optional)
2 tbsp margarine
2/3 cup milk (or there about)

Combine chicken and all broth ingredients in a dutch oven or large soup pot over HIGH heat. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and cook 1 1/2-2 hours. Remove chicken breasts from soup and allow to cool 10-15 minutes. (Until cool enough to handle.) Remove all meat from breasts and return meat to pot. Discard bones and skin.

Combine dry dumpling ingredients. Cut margarine into flour using two knives or pastry cutter until small pebbles are formed. Add milk, 1/4 cup at a time, kneading with hands to combine. If dry, add more milk. If sticky, add a tbsp of flour until dough forms.

Flour counter surface (or cutting board) and rolling pin. Place dough on surface. Roll out as thin as possible (1/4 inch or less.) Cut dough into rectangles. Add dumplings to soup one by one. Cook 10 minutes more, or until dumplings are floating on top of broth.

Menu for THIS Week

I'm working on posts for last week...

Monday- Chile con Carne with Beans, Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread
Tuesday- Spiced Pork Chops, Roasted Chipotle Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli
Wednesday- Grandparents visit! (And bring food!)
Thursday- French Onion Soup
Friday- Spaghetti with Meatballs (or go out?)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


little one (and i) have been under the weather...

i'll post later about all the different chicken soup versions i created this weekend...