“Chemists in the Kitchen?”
If you ever want a funny read, just pick up an old copy of “The Joy of Cooking”, my copy from my Aunt Peggy is from 1964. I reflected on a section I read in the Quick Breads section: “Housewives often wonder why their coffee cakes and fillings seem insipid compared with some of the more sophisticated commercial products… a touch of yellow coloring..or almond paste are often used in commercial coffee cakes…”. Readers probably said to themselves, “so THAT’s why I can’t get my baked goods to taste as good as the ones from the store, aren’t they tricky!”. Today, do you know why you can’t get your baked goods to taste the same? You are missing a dose of chemicals.
I played golf with a guy who owned a small Baking business, specializing in a variety of home-made gluten-free treats. He told me that he attended baking classes alongside “chemists” from some of the largest store-brand name baking companies around the country. Why would chemists attend baking classes? He told us that chemists were sent from their labs to learn how to bake so they could best determine how to incorporate chemicals into the baking products to make them taste better. A far cry from 1964 I’d say.
Chicken Cheese Steaks
This is another version of my fast food before practice. Check with your local italian market (I like Sam’s) for frozen chicken and “chip-steak” meat for Cheese Steaks. You can cook them frozen. The meat is simply cut paper-thin and cooks quickly. Grab some long italian rolls, or keep some in the freezer for a last-minute meal. It’s almost like being at Tony Lukes!
- Heat a drop of oil or PAM in a hot non-stick pan. Cook your chicken or steak in the pan like scrambled eggs.
- Add slices of American cheese and slide onto your roll.
- Cook side of onions, peppers or throw some spinach or mushrooms in the pan to add to your cheese steak if desired.
Carrot Sticks: I always have these on hand when in a rush – a veggie is a veggie! Read below for “where do baby carrots come from?”.
Mac N’Cheese: You can go with a box of organic stuff but it’s so easy to make your own (plus the organic stuff has sugar in it).
- Cook any kind of pasta according to directions (try 2 cups of elbows). Drain and set aside in colander.
- Heat 2 TBS of butter in the pot with a tablespoon of flour
- Add up to 1 cup of half and half (or any kind of milk) and up to 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese (or any cheese on hand).
- Add the pasta into the cheese and stir. Add salt/pepper to taste.
How Can the Kids Help?
Did You Know?
- Baby carrots are not exactly what you think they are. Baby carrots are ugly carrots or “culls” that are peeled and cut down to a uniform size for packaging. They are not processed like a chicken nugget just cut to look more pretty. It’s true that they are not nearly as sweet as their longer brothers with the stems on them, but they are more convenient.
- What Are Baby Carrots? http://www.wisebread.com/baby-carrots-the-frugal-idea-that-isnt
- Mac n’ Cheese is originally from China and was brought to Italy by Marco Polo over 500 years ago.
- 1 Cup of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese has 410 Calories and 19 grams of Fat
“Because It’s Always Been Done That Way”
Did you hear the story about the mom who always cut off the front and back of her roast before putting cooking it. When her daughter asked, “Why do you cut the ends off the roast?”, her reply was simply “..because that’s how my mom did it.”. So she asked her grandmother, “Why do you cut the ends off your roast before cooking it?” and she received the same reply, “..because that’s how my mother taught me.”. Luckily the girl was persistent and even luckier because her great-grandmother was still alive. So she asked her great-grandmother, “why did you always cut the ends of the roast off?”. The great-grandmother replied, “…dear, I had to cut the roast, a little off the front and a little off the back, because otherwise it would not fit in my roasting pan.”.
Do you ever do something but have no idea why other than because it’s always been done that way? Sometimes I wonder why I feel the need to scrub my poultry so clean I may as well use bleach. My mom, my nanny, and my great-aunt all taught me do that. They all “schkeev” (aka were grossed out by) unscrubbed chicken. I understand the need for chicken to be clean but to this extent? Perhaps, just maybe somewhere in my ancestry someone got sick from poultry and created this aversion that now my poor 7-year-old daughter is stuck with in 2010. Who knows, but the real question is, how long will it continue?
TURKEY KABOBS (also good with chicken):
I like to use turkey because you can get a lot of squares of meat out of just one Turkey London Broil (turkey cutlets work too). My buddy, “Matt the Butcher” (a culinary school graduate) at Fresh Market cubed the meat for me and explained that a turkey london broil is simply a turkey breast and the tenderloin in one piece. The tenderloin is extremely tender just like a filet or pork tenderloin.
- Mix your marinade in a Ziploc bag (olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, pepper, fresh or dried rosemary or basil)
- Put your meat cubes in the marinade and leave Ziploc in fridge for 3 minutes, 30 mins. or all day
- Stick cubes on sticks and grill (I like to grill on tinfoil, it doesn’t char as much – the kids don’t like that “burnt taste”)
- Grill for 5-10 minutes on each side until almost completely cooked (cover with tin foil on plate to finish cooking)
- Obviously NEVER eat poultry pink or bloody in any way
If you want to do veggie kabobs I recommend doing them separately so you can vary your cooking times. The meat will always take longer so if you mix them, your veggies could end up burnt.
Corn Salad: I usually use fresh corn and cut off the cob (big pain) but I discovered that Fresh Market’s frozen Silver Queen Corn works great!
- 1/2 bag of fresh/frozen (Fresh Market) corn cooked
- 2 diced tomatoes
- Couple leaves of fresh basil
- Optional: add 1/2 can of black beans
- Add a drop of olive oil and rice vinegar, salt and pepper to taste
Roasted Broccoli: You can do this on the grill on tin foil or in the oven
- Mix drop of olive oil, chopped garlic (or from spice tube), lemon juice/zest and parmesan cheese
- Drizzle on top of broccoli spears
- Bake for 15-20 minutes (on 400)
Sweet Potato Spears: You can do this on the gill on tin foil or in the oven
- Cut sweet potatoes any shape (I like spears) and toss with olive oil (or butter), a drizzle of maple syrup, salt and pepper
- Bake on tin foil-lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes (on 400)
How Can the Kids Help:
Did You Know:
- Hamburgers are the most popular food to grill at 87%, followed by steak 83%, chicken 78%, and hot dogs 76%
- Ribs must be boiled prior to grilling, because putting them on the grill for the full cooking time will leave them dried out or burned. This pre-grill step can be done up to two days ahead.
The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker…
Remember the days when you got your meat from the butcher shop, your bread from the baker, and your fish from the fishmonger? Maybe not, but I do remember my mom getting her meat from “Sam, the butcher” (no his girlfriend was not Alice) and her bread from another Sam at the Italian Market. Today we have Walmart and Target where you can purchase camping equipment, a new TV and of course, frozen chicken nuggets.
I changed my entire purchasing philosophy. Fresh Market has an old-fashioned butcher at the back of the store with EVERY type and cut of meat laid out fresh in front of you. They grind their own Turkey meat on demand if you need more and nothing comes in pre-packaged quantities shrink wrapped with extra god knows what. They have thin chicken cutlets with almost NO jiggly white stuff on them which is terrific because it saves me the step of vigorously scrubbing them like a scene from a prison shower or radioactive decontamination.
I know that most people don’t think they have the time or money to shop at specialty shops these days. However, when I focus my purchases on primarily fresh organic ingredients (fewer boxed¸ processed items), I actually spend less overall. Once a month, I go to a superstore or shop on-line (free shipping) for all my bulk/cleaning items which greatly reduces my impulse purchases. I also buy a lot of meat at once (preferably on sale) and freeze it. The only guy left out is the Candlestick Maker. Oh well, what about, “The Butcher, The Baker….Starbucks”.
This is very similar to the ‘Lemon Chicken’ but I add mushrooms at the end.
- Salt and pepper chicken cutlets then dip chicken in flour (of any kind).
- Heat a drop of EV olive oil and fresh garlic and cook chicken until brown on both sides. Move to the serving platter.
- Pour some (1/2 cup) chicken broth, (1/4 cup) white wine (if desired), and a squeeze of lemon juice into pan and bring to a boil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 6-7 minutes or so until they are cooked and sauce thickens. Any kind of mushroom works (baby bellas, white, shitake).
- Add chicken back into pan to finish cooking. You can cover and put on low until you finish rest of meal. You can serve the mushrooms on top or along the side of the chicken if not everyone likes them.
RED POTATOES (small):
- Wash and peel only as needed. Leave most of red skin for color and nutrition.
- Boil in pot of salted water until cooked through.
- Toss with EV olive oil, salt/pepper and herbs (I like the ‘Fine Herbs’ from Penzies spices but even just parsley is good).
- Peel and boil the carrots. Toss with a drop of butter, salt and splash of orange juice (a drop of maple syrup works too).
- It’s nice to splurge on carrots on the stem sometimes, they look so pretty (although usually too thin to roast).
CORNBREAD: Bought it from Fresh Market – YUM!
SALAD: Used the romaine and yellow pepper from last night.
How the Kids Can Help:
- Dash salt/pepper on chicken and shake the chicken in a Ziploc with flour or toss around in the bowl
- Help wash the mushrooms
- Roll the lemon to loosen up all the juices
- Rip pieces of romaine into salad bowl (depending on age, use a butter knife to cut peppers, celery, etc.)
- Learn about using the peeler (try peeling carrots if ready)
- Set table, get drink orders
- Fungi for Kids Pictures and Coloring Sheets: http://www.northamptonshirewildlife.co.uk/nfungi/fungiforkids.htm
Did You Know?
- 4600 years ago, many believed that mushrooms had properties that could produce super- human strength, help in finding lost objects and lead the soul to the realm of the gods, therefore no commoner was allowed to eat them!
- ‘Magic mushrooms’ seem to have been the subject of ancient rock art in caves, proving that this inspiration has been around for over 7000 years.
Story: I looked up the definition of “acquired taste” and found this: “One that is unpleasant on immediate experience or is likeable only after being experienced repeatedly”. Wikipedia says that “An acquired taste often refers to an appreciation for a food or beverage that is unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it”. Did you like coffee the first time you tried it? Perhaps you enjoyed the smell or it made you feel ‘all grown up’ when you drank it at first and now it’s a critical part of your routine. The Korean students visiting our school said that one of their favorite things about America was our breakfast. Why you ask? Because in Korea, their breakfast is the leftover dinner from the night before. Tell that to your kids next time they complain about frozen waffles.
CHICKEN (Bone-in Breast): If you don’t have time to make your own, I recommend finding one with the fewest ingredients and no chemicals. They will all have some sugar in them but avoid the ‘high-fructose corn syrup’ if you can. Also, some brands have a very strong smoky flavor which the kids often don’t like.
- 1 1/2 cups of ketchup (add a couple TBS of water to it)
- 1/3 cup of brown sugar
- 1/3 cup of cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup of molasses
- 1/8 cup of Worcester sauce
- Dash of garlic
Mix ingredients all together and pour/brush onto both sides of chicken, lift the skin up to get sauce directly on the chicken breast. Lay chicken on foil-lined baking sheet or dish and bake at 400 for 30 mins (chicken temp 160). Take chicken out and cover with foil to continue cooking while you get the rest of dinner together. This chicken will be unbelievable moist!
ZUCCHINI: I usually use the regular sized zucchini but bought the little ones this week.
They tasted a bit ‘woody’ so I think I’ll go back to the longer kind. Slice the ends off the zucchini and then slice pieces into about 1/2 inch thick (you can also use a peeler to get off some of the skin). If the zucchini is very thick you may want to slice it once long ways before slicing each piece. Place into a baking dish and toss with a little EVOO, salt/pepper and rosemary. One bowl for prep, baking, and serving – the beauty of roasting veggies! Roast with chicken at 400 for 30 mins. or until cooked through. Careful not to let them get mushy.
BEETS: I had some yellow and red beets this week. Peel them like a potato, chop into cubes and place them in a baking dish. Toss with EVOO, salt/pepper and rosemary. Bake with chicken at 400 for 30 minutes or until cooked through. I swear these have a very mild flavor and consistency – perfect for kids.
ISRAELI COUS COUS (Quick Version): I needed to make this fast so I skipped frying the onion first. I mixed 1 cup of Israeli Cous Cous (basically tiny pasta) into a pot with a drop of EVOO and stirred for a few minutes on medium heat. Then, add 1 1/2 cups of water, salt/pepper, dash of garlic powder, and cover for 8-10 mins. I added some parsley in a tube from the fridge for color. The kids LOVE this dish – always a good time to try a new veggie!
SALAD: Wash some Romaine leaves. Make sure salad is DRY, use paper towels or a dishtowel. My mom always wrapped her cleaned lettuce up in a clean dishtowel to stay dry and fresh. Add tomato for color and some balsamic vinaigrette.
What Can Kids Do?
Did You Know:
- The origin of BBQ has not been confirmed. Some say it originated out west in order to feed a large number of cowboys with a cheaper piece of meat by cooking it at a very low temperature for a very long time (5-7 hours). Others say it originated from France where the french words “barbe- a- queue” means “from snout to tail” in English. Another theory is that BBQ comes from a nineteenth century advertisement for a combination whiskey bar, beer hall, pool establishment and purveyor of roast pig, known as the BAR-BEER-CUE-PIG.
- Beets: The New Spinach: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/04/health/nutrition/04recipehealth.html
Surprise! The Kids Can Cook!
The other day I came downstairs a little late to find Mia (7) had fried her brother an egg and arranged it on a plate with some fresh blueberries and dried cranberries (his favorite). Her unappreciative brother was mad because he wanted to fry it himself! My best friend thinks all kids under the age of 12 should at least be able to make a grilled cheese:)
Tonight: Teach the kids to use chopsticks!
CHICKEN STIR-FRY: Make sure pan is hot!
- Drop some vegetable oil in the pan and cook 1/2 an onion for 5 minutes. Add the (4-6) cut-up chicken breasts and a little soy sauce until cooked through and then set aside. Stir-fry fresh (or frozen) vegetables (whatever you have, I like broccoli, red pepper, baby carrots, baby corn, asparagus, water chestnuts) for a few minutes.
- Stir in Special Sauce: Use any of the ‘House of Tsang’ Stir-Fry Sauces or make your own: Combine 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 4 TBS of soy sauce, 2 TBS of cornstarch, and 2 tsp of brown sugar,
sprinkle garlic and ginger powder to taste. Cover veggies to cook through.
- Add chicken and stir together.
If you made the sauce from scratch, you should clear a space and pour the sauce into the center of the pan first to let it get thick before you mix it all together. You also need a final hit of soy sauce before serving.
Rice: Cook brown or white rice (10 mins.)
Edamame: Microwave frozen edamame in a bowl with a little water and sea salt for 2 minutes. Drain and serve.
What can the kids help with?
- My daughter made up a game to point out which broccoli spears needed to be cut. She pointed and called out “long-neck!” and I cut that piece of broccoli
- Measure and whisk the stir-fry sauce and pour it in the pan
- Learn how to use can opener to open the baby corn/water chestnuts
- Measure water and help cook the rice
- Set/clear the table
- Chinese Coloring Pages: http://www.childbook.com/Chinese-New-Year-Greetings-Coloring-Pages-Pictures-s/212.htm
Did you know?
- Chinese chopsticks are usually made of unfinished wood and are 1 1/2 inches longer than Japanese chopsticks which are usually made of lacquered wood (or bamboo)
- People in China were the first to drink tea
- There are nearly 3 x’s the number of chinese restaurants than there are McDonalds franchises
How ’bout Brussel Sprouts?
Mia (7) and I were in the grocery store yesterday and I asked her what we should serve with our pork roast. She said “hmmm….how about brussels sprouts?”. The man working in Produce turned around in amazement and said “Did she just say what I think she said?!!”.
- CHICKEN: Dip thin chicken cutlets in egg, then dip in Progresso ‘Italian’ breadcrumbs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with oil (I used PAM, organic ‘olive oil’). Place chicken on tray and spray again with PAM or EVOO. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
I had some leftover sauce in the freezer so I sprinkled some shredded mozzarella on the chicken and topped it with the sauce (or as I call it, gravy). Baked for another 5 minutes until melted.
- PASTA/QUICK SAUCE: Make sure you salt your water generously before it comes to a boil. I will post my real Sunday Gravy recipe separately however, here is my mother’s secret quick sauce when in a hurry (don’t tell). Heat a drop of EVOO and some fresh garlic in a pot and cook for a minute or two. Add a jar of sauce (yes I said a jar). My mom loved CENTO, but RAO’s and L.E. Roselli’s (less expensive) are the best. Add some fresh basil (or in a tube) and some pepper and ta dah! Almost home-made sauce!
- SALAD: I had Romaine in a bag and sliced some leftover red pepper and carrot for color. I added some fresh-cut fennel but this is pretty strong for kids.
NOTE: I was finishing dinner and looked over and saw Mia grating carrots over the salad “Look Mom! I shredded carrots to make the salad look so pretty!”
HOW CAN THE KIDS HELP? Think about how your little ones can help with each meal:
* Crack and whisk the eggs
* Pour the breadcrumbs
* Spray the Oil
* Make the salad
* As always, set the table and get the drinks
CHICKEN: Place chicken breasts/legs on baking sheet. Pour a little EV Olive oil, salt/pepper and Herbs de Provence on top. Roast on 425 for approx. 30 minutes (chicken temp should be 160). Take chicken out of oven and cover for 10 mins. until juice is clear.
Roasted Chicken - MOIST
Note: The trick with thick chicken on bone is to cook at a high temp. and take out before it is cooked completely. It will continue to cook under the foil and will be very tender and moist.
BROCCOLI/CAULIFLOWER: Cut up broccoli/cauliflower and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with EV olive oil, garlic powder, good hit of salt/pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Bake next to chicken for 20-30 minutes. Edges will be golden brown – yummy!
CORN: Boiled frozen corn (Silver Queen from Fresh Market) with butter and salt. Easy and kids love it.
OTHER: I made some Rice Pilaf. I like the Far East brand but it takes 30 minutes. Toasted some ciabatta rolls and we had plenty of carbs to balance our high protein meal. Not the most colorful meal, but it worked!
Shut Up and Eat It!
Once I took on the attitude of “shut up and eat” (in a figurative way of course), my kids quickly understood that the conversation was over. If you maintain this stance however, it is your responsibility to cook a healthy meal with simple flavors that your children can enjoy. You can’t make chicken fingers every day and decide one day make “Curried Lamb” and expect your kids to gobble it up. Start your flavors and textures slowly, and gradually introduce them into a variety of choices. If you keep this up, I guarantee your children will not only try the food, but will enjoy it too. Oh shut up – I promise.
This recipe has simple flavors and is simple to make – perfect for the kids! This is a great dish to start your transition to the family dinner.
- CHICKEN: Salt/pepper chicken cutlets and toss them lightly with flour (try a ziploc bag). Heat a drop of EVOO and cook chicken in pan until golden brown but not cooked all the way through. Flip and cook the other side. Place chicken on a plate. Heat 1/2 cup chicken broth and juice from 1/2 lemon (in same chicken pan) for 3-4 minutes until it gets a little thick. Add a splash of white wine and capers if you like. Put chicken back in pan and simmer until cooked through for about 5-8 more minutes. I like to flip the chicken over to coat both sides with the sauce.
- CARROTS: I like the carrots on the stem. Just scrape and boil until tender. Add a little butter, salt and drop of orange juice or honey.
- PASTA: Cook 1/2 pound of pasta (I used orchiette) according to directions. Mix 2 TBS of EV olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, basil (fresh or keep a tube on hand in fridge), and sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Add salt/pepper, pour on top of pasta and stir.
- RAW SALAD: Cut up whatever you have! Tonight I mixed a yellow/red pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes and mixed with 1 TBS of EV olive oil and salt/pepper and a splash of vinegar. I like to use rice vinegar AND red wine vinegar for a sweet and sour taste but use balsamic if you prefer.
- How the kids Can Help
- Ask the kids to shake the chicken in the Ziploc bag. Teach them about the dangers of raw meat and to always wash their hands.
- Teach them how to use a peeler if they are old enough. Watch out for your fingers!
- Kids love to test the pasta to see if it’s cooked “needs one more minute!”.
- Have your child press the lemon on the counter to release the juices before you cut and squeeze it.
- Let them do a taste test – “needs more cheese….”.
- Did You Know?
- Lemon-juice is a powerful antibacterial –the bacteria of malaria, diphtheria, typhoid and other deadly diseases are destroyed in lemon-juice.
- Lemon can help cleanse your body – drink with a drop of honey on an empty stomach. Lemon has been used to destroy intestinal worms!
- Lemons assist mountaineers with their lack of oxygen and breathing. Edmund Hillary, the first man to put his foot on the top of Mt. Everest, has admitted that his victory over Mt. Everest was greatly due to lemon.
After a huge burrito at Chipotle this afternoon, we were not starving so I defrosted some chicken drummettes (on sale at Fresh Market last week) and whipped this up….
CHICKEN: Mix olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary together and brush onto chicken or just put it all in a ziploc to marinate for a bit. Bake on cookie sheet (I like to line with parchment paper for easy cleanup) at 425 for approx. 30 minutes.
ASPARAGUS: Clip ends a lot (too stringy for kids) and put in a baking dish. Mix olive oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder in a bowl and pour on top of asparagus. Then mix some bread crumbs in the empty bowl with a drop of oil and sprinkle on top of aspagus. Cook with chicken for 20 mins.
MAC n’ CHEESE: C’mon we all got to do it. We had the “Back to Nature”, Crazy Bugs. It is Sunday afterall.