For those who didn’t learn to cook growing up, my friend Becky Duffett wrote “How to Feed Yourself” and filled it with 100 of her favorite go-to recipes, no fancy ingredients or equipment required. This hip foodie worked on Williams Sonoma cookbooks for several years and knows what’s what when it comes to making a great cookbook—from beautiful photos to crystal-clear instructions. While she’s targeting recent college grads and twentysomethings, this fortysomething mom likes it too. My cooking is a bit rudimentary, and I’ve aspired to kick it up a notch for a while now. I can follow a recipe, and Jeff and Carter are psyched that I’ll be trying some of Becky’s weeknight dinner recipes—the bulk of the book. Of course, she had me at one-bowl brownies with hazelnuts and Nutella.
Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category
In a shocking turn of events today, I managed to think about dinner far enough in advance to put chicken in the slow cooker (is anyone else still adjusting to not saying “Crock-Pot”?) before I left on a few errands. Each of which turned out to be problematic. So, so nice to come home and be ahead of the feeding game.
My Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe, which Carter loves because it’s sweet, is the one and only recipe I’ve written that has appeared in print, in the Home Plates column in the San Jose Mercury News. I was sure I’d shared it on Baking with Carter, but it turns out I’ve been holding out on you.
LIke the Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese recipe that I did share, the Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe is adapted from Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, which I highly recommend. (To save time and cleanup, I skip the original recipe’s step of browning the chicken in olive oil with garlic first, but knock yourself out if you like the added flavor.)
When I used to work at the erstwhile Internet search engine Infoseek, “easy chicken recipe” was perennially a top search phrase. Now that I’m a working mom, the popularity makes even more sense. Add “kid-friendly,” and you really have a winner. So without further ado, here’s my favorite kid-friendly, easy chicken recipe:
Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken with Almonds
4–6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (one package)
1 cup tomato salsa (good jarred variety)
2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
Spray the inside of a 1 1/2 to 3 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Trim extra fat and put the chicken in the slow cooker. Combine the salsa, currants, honey, cumin, and cinnamon and pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the chicken is cooked (fork tender and juices run clear). Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken over couscous.
Optionally: Toast 2 tablespoons slivered almonds in dry skillet on stovetop until brown and fragrant; serve chicken over couscous and top with toasted almonds.
This is one chicken recipe I can count on Carter, who has a sweet tooth, eating. He loves the currants/raisins, and I’m sure the honey helps too. Of course, he puts his own spin on the meal, eating the couscous separately with ketchup.
I searched “easy chicken recipe” at Food Blog Search, and here are some more ideas:
Tin Foil Chicken & Veggies from Kitchen Parade
Honey Mustard Chicken from Eclectic Recipes
Easy Cornflake Crumb Chicken from Chew on That
Grilled Island Chicken from Sarah’s Cucina Bella
Just a Little Mexican Chicken from Zesty Cook
As far as I’m concerned, a perfect present is something I really want and wouldn’t buy for myself—like a popover pan (thanks, Dawn!). I’ve never met a Nordic Ware pan I didn’t like (I’ll cop to collecting Bundt pans), and the English popover pan is no exception. I’d never actually made popovers. It sounded like fun, and it is.
The basic batter is super simple—milk, eggs, flour, salt, butter—and should be easy to put together with kids. Sadly, I didn’t get to try because Carter has been recovering from pneumonia and was napping when I mixed up the first batch.
Better yet, though, is watching popovers balloon up like new skyscrapers in the oven. Popover pan cups are 4 inches high, and the batter goes from filling the cups halfway up to towering over the top—demonstrating yet again the magical chemistry behind baking. Carter missed the transformation because he was in the bath, but he was impressed with the result when I carried the pan in to show him.
You can make popovers in a muffin pan, too, so don’t be scared off by my choice of specialty bakeware. I read a bunch of popover recipes and the key to the “pouf” is high heat. You heat the oven with your baking pan of choice in it with a silver baking sheet or a baking stone under it. Once the batter has rested (another key) and everything is hot, fill the pan quickly, and don’t open the oven door once the popovers are baking.
Jeff appreciated my effort. Carter ate half of one with strawberry jelly and was underwhelmed. He, like me, has an expressive face that doesn’t hide much. I hope he’ll be a little more excited when he feels better and we make them together. I also want to experiment with flavors. I have my eye on Mary Cech’s orange nutmeg popover recipe in Savory Baking. I’ll report back.
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon oil (for greasing a popover pan; plus 2 teaspoons if using a muffin tin)
In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. In another bowl, whisk the flour and salt; add to the egg mixture. Stir with a spatula just until combined; the mixture will be lumpy. Add the melted butter. Whisk until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 30 seconds. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, then put it in a container with a spout, if your mixing bowl doesn’t have one.
Meanwhile, put 1/2 teaspoon oil in the bottom of each of the 6 cups of a popover pan (or in each of 10 cups of a muffin tin)—no need to spread around. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; place the popover pan (or muffin tin) on a silver (not dark) baking sheet or a baking stone on the rack. Heat the oven to 450˚F.
After the batter has rested, remove the pan from the oven and distribute the batter evenly among the cups in the pan—work quickly and keep the oven door closed. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door! Lower the heat to 350˚F and bake until popovers are golden brown all over, about 15 minutes more. Remove the popovers from the pan and cool them on a wire rack for a few minutes. Best served immediately.
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
I read Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater after my friend Amy raved about it in person. On her blog, Cooking with Amy, she calls Hungry Monkey “the funniest book I’ve read all year….I literally couldn’t put it down.” And she doesn’t even have kids. She does know cooking, though, and she likes the recipes: “I’ve recommended [Hungry Monkey] to just about everyone I know who has little ones,” she says. “I don’t dare lend anyone my copy because there are too many recipes I have bookmarked to try.”
Reading the acknowledgments (what can I say—I’m a book editor) further affirmed that it’s a small world. My friends Anita and Cameron are friends with the author, Matthew Amster-Burton, and tested some of the recipes. Check out what they have to say on their blog Married with Dinner. Amster-Burton writes a blog called Roots and Grubs.
The stories about the author and his daughter are funny and touching. Most of the book’s recipes, though, are beyond my cooking (vs. baking) skill level. Some of the simpler recipes that I’d like to try are Crunchy Cheese Wafers (I can handle baking cheese, nuts, and herbs for 5 minutes at 400˚F) and Mini Fritattas made in nonstick muffin pans. The author’s favorite veggie is Brussels sprouts, so I’m tempted to follow his surprising recommendations to brown and braise frozen (!) ones.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll enjoy Amster-Burton’s insider view of the world of food. If you’re a new parent, Hungry Monkey will give you a realistic view of what to expect, including your lack of control over what your child chooses to eat. I also recommend this book to anyone, though, who just wants a laugh. And who couldn’t use that these days?
Before we had Carter, I’m hard pressed to think of a time my husband and I actually planned a meal together. Post-child, that changed, and family dinner is an important part of our evening routine. I’m generally the one who gets the food on the table, and it’s hard after 10 hours of commuting and working. Jeff kindly calls me the “master chef,” mostly because I know more about cooking than he does. Truth be told, though, I’m not much of a cook. That’s why I’m thrilled to find a true quick-and-easy dish. (Are you, too, dismayed at what’s billed as “quick and easy” that’s neither?)
Tonight’s success is ironically inspired by a recipe in Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. Here’s my take on her Salsa Chicken with Cheese, which will take longer for me to write than it did to make!
Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup premade salsa (such as Newman’s Own Chunky Mild Salsa)
2 slices Provolone cheese
Preheat overproof skillet over medium heat. Trim access fat from the chicken with a kitchen shears and place between two pieces of wax paper. Pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until the chicken is a consistent height, around 1/4 inch. Brush both sides with olive oil. Place chicken in skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes; turn and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Spoon salsa evenly over the top of the chicken. Squeeze lime juice onto salsa. Top each breast with a slice of cheese. Move skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Serve, pouring any juices from the pan over the top.
Kids’ cooking: Carter helped pound out the chicken—holding the meat tenderizer in both hands to prevent any errant blows on little fingers.
Side note: I showed Carter (and Jeff) how to snap off the end of an asparagus spear, so the woody part naturally breaks off, which is fun to do. (It didn’t inspire either of them to like asparagus—nor did the grated lemon zest and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Oh well, they both liked the chicken!)
This recipe is a healthy take on a childhood classic from Real Food for Healthy Kids. It’s rare that I find a cookbook from which I make more than one recipe, a true hallmark of success in the cookbook world (we cookbook readers aspire more than we execute). Written by two working moms, Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, Real Food for Healthy Kids is one of those books.
Ba-Ba Banana Bread
From Real Food for Healthy Kids
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 very ripe medium bananas, coarsely mashed with a fork
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (in lieu of 2/3 cup chopped walnuts)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-by5-inch loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and reserve.
Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix at low speed until blended.
Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips or nuts and the scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tested inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn out and let cool before cutting.