Archive for the ‘Family meals’ category

Toss the take-out menus and buy this cookbook

December 7th, 2014

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.

healthy cranberry sauce that kids will eat

November 27th, 2009

Homemade cranberry sauce without that much sugar. Not what I would have guessed would be Carter’s favorite Thanksgiving offering, but he served himself up spoonful after spoonful. Pretty surprising considering the tartness and his love affair with salty meats, including smoked turkey breast from Burger’s Smokehouse. (I know it’s not hard to make a turkey, but buying boneless, sliced turkey is easier yet.) My favorite leftovers: turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

12.5-ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
3 strips of orange peel
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens to desired consistency. (While the original recipe says 20 minutes, I do it for about an hour.)

Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them!). Transfer sauce to a bowl. Cool to room temperature (the sauce will set) and serve. You can also make it in advance and refrigerate for up to three days prior to serving.

Adapted from Simple Cranberry-Citrus Relish, Health magazine, November 2007

buttered-up beer bread and boys in the kitchen

November 16th, 2009

To make Trader Joe’s beer bread, add a bottle of beer to the mix and pour melted butter over the top. Lucky for us, Jeff read it as 1/4 lb (full stick) of butter, instead of  1/4 cup of butter (half of a stick). While it’s exceedingly unusual for Jeff to misread anything, the bread tasted twice as nice, with a delicious crisp crust. We had the bread fresh the other day and the leftover toasted (spread with yet more butter) today.

Yesterday, Carter helped me make breakfast. I was so proud when he got out the vanilla and said we should add it to the pancakes. Of course, he also wanted to smell it! Osmosis at work: vanilla isn’t in our current favorite pancake recipe, but he’s heard me talk about/adding it to other pancake recipes. (I put in 1 teaspoon.)

When we didn’t have enough blueberries to make all blueberry pancakes, Carter said we should make strawberry pancakes. (Fold diced strawberries into the batter before ladling onto griddle. Coating the strawberries with batter helps prevent them from getting overly browned. Don’t worry, though, if the fruit gets pretty dark brown; it doesn’t taste burned. Note: It works better to sprinkle the blueberries on top, rather than mixing them with the batter.)

Just like Jeff (albeit unintentionally) made a good call on the butter, Carter made the right call on the vanilla and the strawberries. And I got to enjoy the results. I wonder what the boys will cook up next….

even if you don’t have kids, read hungry monkey, a funny book from a foodie dad

November 9th, 2009

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?

blueberry coffee cake = fruit for dinner

September 2nd, 2009

2 pieces of blueberry coffee cake + a few bites of apple + a few sips of milk = Carter’s dinner last night. Or, as I like to look at it: 3 servings of fruit + some calcium. Not bad, considering other fast-food meal alternatives.

Needless to say, the blueberry streusel coffee cake has been a hit, which inspired me to check out other bloggers’ take on blueberry coffee cake.

Just the other day, my friend Dawn, who designs web sites for gorgeous high-end bed and breakfasts and the like (as well as Baking with Carter), recommended that I check out the baking recipes on the blog Inn Cuisine.  Food Blog Search  was like minded, pointing me to this version of  blueberry streusel coffee cake with nutmeg, butter, and lemon zest.

Kevin at Closet Cooking adds an even more pronounced citrus twist, using lemon juice in his blueberry and lemon coffee cake.

I like how Food Mahem layers the batter and struesel in a Bundt pan, because I love my Bundt pans (yes, I have several variations, although I use the classic heavy-duty one the most frequently). I’d also like to try the suggested addition of almond extract. Whipped’s Barb’s coffee cake also earns points for being made in a Bundt pan. 

For a healthy approach, Madu’s blueberry coffee cake at Eggless Cooking is not only egg-free, it’s also low fat. Maybe that would be a better dinnertime option?

Quick chicken recipe (really)

August 5th, 2009

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
Olive oil
1/2 cup premade salsa (such as Newman’s Own Chunky Mild Salsa)
1/2 lime
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!)

Fresh veggies

July 1st, 2009

Cousin Elyse is here on a solo visit from Omaha. (My sister Kathy has two sets of boy-girl twins. Yes, two sets. Elyse is the older daughter.) Carter is beyond himself with excitement.

It’s embarrassing considering that I live in the land of year-round fresh veggies, but I admit that I microwave frozen vegetables on a near daily basis to check off the veggies box on the dinner menu. In honor of getting more calories into a 17 year old, who’s over 6 feet tall and still growing, I did my take on a veggie recipe.

Yellow Squash with Onions and Parmesan Cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, chopped
3 yellow squash, quartered and sliced
1/4 cup, or so, shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat large skillet or wok over medium heat. Melt butter in pan. Add onions and cook until soft and just starting to brown, stirring frequently. Add squash and cook until soft and starting to brown, stirring frequently. Put in serving bowl. Toss with cheese. Serve immediately.

Carter’s Take: One bite coated in ketchup. “I don’t like it.”