Monthly Archives: May 2013

I made a delicious roast chicken and my toddler won’t eat it… now what?

Like I mentioned in my last post, making a roast chicken is a great way to start the week. The problem is that sometimes our loving lil’ ones won’t just eat plain pieces of chicken with a side of vegetables.. (if yours does you, you are one of the lucky ones). It’s moments like these when we have to use our mommy “cooking-ingenuity” to re-invent the meal in a way that is interesting, delicious and enticing. For my Jojo, that means that it has to be an interesting shape, include some type of carb and be served with his favorite vegetables or fruits.

Roast chicken is my favorite thing to cook because it can be magically re-invented in a variety of ways. Recently I have used it to create homemade chicken patties and homemade “hot pockets”.  I created these meals myself and tailored them to Jojo’s likes, so experiment with them and change them to fit your lil’ one’s tastes.

Chicken Patty

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • ¼ c shredded carrots
  • ¼ c diced red onion
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 slice multigrain bread Broken into small pieces
  • ½ c diced or shredded chicken
  • 1 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • breadcrumbs

In a frying pan sauté the celery, carrots and red onions until onions and celery are translucent. Remove from frying pan and allow to cool.  In a food processor/ blender combine bread pieces, chicken, mayonnaise, egg and garlic powder and process until mixture is combined. Add sautéed vegetables to mixture. Mix with fork to combine. For smoother consistency, process vegetables with bread mixture.  The chicken patty picture will be wet. Poor bread crumbs onto a plate. Scoop chicken mixture into a ball and roll it in the breadcrumb (like you are rolling a sticky meatball). Then press the patty flat in your hand and allow to rest on a plate before frying (approx 5 minutes). Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. When the oil is hot place the chicken patties in the oil and cook until both sides are golden brown. You can also bake these in a 400-degree oven (drizzle a little oil on each to allow them to get golden brown).

Quick & Easy Chicken Hot Pockets- I literally came up with this idea because I was craving a hot pocket and knew that Jojo would love it.

  • Bisquick
  • Milk
  • ¼ c mixed vegetables -cooked
  • ½ c diced cooked chicken
  • ¼ shredded cheddar
  • 3 tbsp chicken stock
  • dash of garlic powder

Filling- In a food processor combine bread, half the cooked vegetables, cooked chicken, chicken stock and garlic powder and blend. Add remaining frozen vegetables and ¼ of shredded cheddar to mixture. Stir with a fork.

Prepare Bisquick biscuit dough according to recipe on the box. (I use the Heart- healthy variety). Sprinkle 2 tbsp of Bisquick mix on the counter and roll out the biscuit dough. Roll dough into a large rectangle. With a biscuit cutter cut-out circles. TO make 1 hotpocket you will need to circles (make sure that the dough is thin, approx 1/4″ thick). Place a dollop of filling in a circle and then lay another circle on top. Use the fork to seal the edges like a ravioli. Place the “hot pocket” on a baking pan and cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

A Quick Start to a Work Week

I’m a teacher,  planning is second nature to me, so it should be no surprise that I plan out almost of my meals for the week ahead of time (I’m a nerd, I know). My preparation for the following week’s meals begins with my weekend  trip to the grocery store. Yes, the idea of even stepping foot into the grocery store on my day off makes me cringe too, but a successful trip can actually make the rest of my week quite pleasant.

This week I went to the store on Sunday afternoon (not only the worst day to go, but the worst time of day) and picked up a few items that have actually helped to start my

week off on the right foot by giving me “cook ahead” and “repurposing” options for meals for the rest of the week.

Menu for the Beginning of the Week:

  • Sunday – Baked Chicken with sauteed snap peas & shredded carrots and sweet potato fries – Family Dinner
  • Monday- Arugula, Cashew, Pumpkin Seed, Pomegranate Salad topped with Baked Chicken for mommy& daddy/ Chicken Patties with peas and sweet potato fries for Jojo (recipe for homemade chicken patties will follow next week)
  • Tuesday– Chicken salad sandwiches & Quiche

Grocery List –

  1. 1 whole chicken
  2. 1 package frozen broccoli
  3. 1 package shredded cheddar
  4. 2 lemons
  5. Fresh garlic
  6. Celery
  7. Pears
  8. 1 loaf multi-grain bread
  9. Eggs
  10. Whole milk
  11. Heart Healthy Bisquick
  12. Bread Crumbs
  13. 1 onion
  14. Arugula
  15. Feta Cheese
  16. Strawberries
  17. Raspberries
  18. Kiwi
  19. Avocados
  20. Shredded Carrots
  21. Pumpkin seeds
  22. Raw Cashews
  23. Pomegranate
  24. Sweet potatoes
  25. Ground beef
  26. Boneless Chicken thighs
  27. Snap peas
  28. Mushrooms

My cook ahead option for the week was the roast chicken. I like making a roasted chicken at the beginning of the week because it can transform itself into a variety of different meals and it’s something I can cook while spending time chasing around lil’ Jojo.   Chicken salad, chicken quesadillas,  arugula salad topped with chicken and homemade chicken patties are all great ways to “repurpose” Sunday’s chicken dinner for another lunch or dinner during the week.  My favorite roast chicken recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa-Ina Gartnen. It is the best roast chicken recipe not only because it’s obviously delicious, but because it is quick and easy. I posted the recipe below, but also wanted to give you a fe

w quick tips.  Don’t worry if you don’t tie the chicken’s legs together. I have prepared this recipe both ways and when I do not “tie the bird up”, I make sure that the chicken is closer to the bottom rack in the oven (it still turns out juicy). Oh, and I almost never make the stock. Once the chicken is done, we let it rest then dig in.

Ina Garten’ s Engagement Roast Chicken

Ingredients
1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
Good olive oil
2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove and discard the chicken giblets. Pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of the lemons. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14-inch) roasting pan. (If the pan is too large, the onions will burn.) Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce, leaving the lemons and onions in the pan.

Place the pan on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect under the chicken. Carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce.

So, with the cook ahead option in the oven, I decided to prepare two additional items to “get ahead” – baked sweet potato fries (super delicious and again EASY) and a Bisquick quiche. Jojo’s favorite vegetable is the sweet potato and I make sweet potato fries at least once a week. The Bisquick quiche is a staple from my childhood. Mom used to make it with all different types of fillings, and I loved every version- thanks for the inspiration mom! Here are my go-to recipes for both:

Dr Oz Guidelines For a Perfect Sweet Potato

Making the perfect sweet potato can be difficult but if you follow the guidelines below, they will come out perfect every time.

  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and bake on a rack on a baking shsweet potatoeet at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the rack and allow to cool.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees while keeping the baking pan in the oven.
  4. Season the sweet potatoes with salt and a small amount of sugar and spices and return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Bisquick Quiche

Batter :

  • 1/2 c Bisquick
  • 1.5 c Milk
  • 4 eggs

Filling (can change to fit your taste)

  • 3/4 bag of frozen broccoli cooked
  • 1.5 c shredded cheddar
  • dash of salt & pepper
  • 1 small onion sauteed

Mix the Bisquick, milk and eggs in a blender. In a greased 8” pie plate spread the cooked broccoli, sauteed onions and cheese. Pour the batter over the fillings. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Other versions are made with Bacon & Swiss – Yummy!!

I hope these ideas help to get your week going. Please leave any comments or questions you may have and stay tuned for more!

Have you discovered your muffin pan?

I LOVE TO COOK and when I am not cooking, I am searching for recipes and planning my next kitchen-creation. Sometimes I draw my inspiration from the ingredients in my refrigerator, but most of the time inspiration comes from the recipes that I find in a magazine,  the Internet, or a meal that is prepared on one of my favorite shows (I love you Michael Symon and the CHEW Crew!!)

One Saturday morning, while sitting at the kitchen table watching lil’ Jojo eat daddy’s homemade blueberry pancakes, I decided to scour the Internet for toddler friendly recipes. Since I was planning on going to the grocery store later in the day, it was imperative that I figure out what I was going to cook Jojo for the week . Yes, the art of planning is vital to my survival!! What would I make for his lunch? What would I make for his dinner? Will what I make be freezable? Will it be delicious, but still be filled with the right amount of fruits, veggies, grains and proteins? Will I have to stand in front of it while it cooks? Can I just let it bake? Is there a lot of prep? Will there be a mess? Is it something I can prepare even if I have to leave him whining in the highchair while I cook it? All are questions that a working & health-conscious mom needs to consider before committing to a recipe. Ya gotta have a game plan!

Considering these types of questions combined with the ridiculous amount of related/non-related information that comes up when you search “toddler friendly recipes” was enough to make me want to grab my coffee, sit on the couch and give up, when EUREKA! The perfect article from “parenting.com” appeared in the search results  that highlighted 5-Mini Meals (click this link to visit the recipes) that could be made using a muffin pan. The recipes seemed simple enough and delicious enough, and the idea of 5 Mini Mealsusing the muffin pan to cook was very alluring. I figured any recipe that  calls for quick prep time, one pan and oven baking was definitely one worth trying. And I am happy I did! Not only were the recipes yummy, but using the muffin pan completely revolutionized the way I think of preparing meals for Jojo.

I highly recommend visiting the site and preparing the Pot Pies, Broccoli & Ziti Cups and Chili Corn Muffins. Both Jojo and I loved them and they were sooo easy to prepare! Read below to see how I tweaked each recipe to meet Jojo’s yummy level (good enough that he’ll say yummmm when he eats it).

Of the 5 Mini Meals I recommend the Pot Pie, Ziti & Broccoli Cup and the Chili Corn Muffin. They are very basic and can easily be modified for your toddler’s tastes. Think of them as blank canvases.

Pot Pie – I added additional chicken, frozen vegetables and 1 tbsp of wheat germ.

Ziti & Broccoli Cups – I added a 1/4 cup of peas, 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/4 cup of whole milk yogurt, two additional tbsp of parmesan cheese and  used whole milk instead of heavy cream. (Just remember that whole milk will be more watery than heavy cream so you may have to adjust the cook time in the recipe).

Chili Corn Muffins – Instead of chili, I filled each corn muffin with taco. If you want the muffin to surround the meat you have to  only fill the cups half full and make sure that the muffin mix surrounds it. Also, since cornbread can tend do be a little dry you can either decide to take it out a few minutes early or be sure to top with a sauce to moisten the bread. Jojo liked a dollop of plain greek yogurt, diced tomatoes and a sprinkl of cheese.

If you plan on trying the mini calzones, make sure that you let your pizza dough cool otherwise you will be fighting to stretch the dough into the form.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as Jojo and I do.  I make them regularly and have them frozen for when I need a quick, healthy and delicious meal.

Tips for the Hubby: If you are planning on making this meal for your entire family, I would suggest that you make a side of gravy for dunking. Remember these are muffin size portions so I would also consider cooking a protein on the side. They make a great accompaniment to a baked chicken or even a chicken cutlet. You can roast sweet potatoes or carrots while baking the muffin cups and have a delicious no fuss meal.

A few thoughts about Jojo’s first food experiences…

When Jojo was born, so was my “mom opinion”. I was instantly making certain types of decisions. Deciding to nurse was the first, going organic was second and cooking my own food when he was ready to eat was the third. Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly I made those decisions. It was almost like my instinct kicked in and said “hey, it’s me your mommy instinct & cooking DNA, it’s time to use me!”. And ever since, that’s where I’ve been. Figuring out the healthiest ways to raise my lil’ Jo.

After what seemed like a looooooooooong cereal stage, Jojo was ready for fruits and purees. I would go to the market every couple of weeks and buy a variety of fruits and veggies that were in season and steam and puree away. I would take out my Hamilton Beach Food processor and my OXO BPA free freezable 4oz squares and go-to-town making all of Jojo’s food.

Looking back, those were the easier times. Jojo did not have an opinion and it was okay for him to survive on fruits and veggies. There was no pushing foods away and certainly no complaining, boy did that change! By the time JoJo turned one, the puree days were gone and it was time for me to start considering the number of teeth he has, what he needs to eat and his food preferences when preparing his meals. Thus, I needed to learn the  art of disguising healthy foods and/or re-imagining them in  delicious ways!

It was difficult to do this in the beginning, since JoJo had very few teeth. So, I started off simple. Here is a list of a few successful meals I tried: (They are basic, so I figured no recipe necessary.)

  1. Ditalini pasta with any sort of vegetable puree  (It can even be a left over jarred puree)
  2. Mashed up sweet potato with cinnamon sprinkled on top
  3. Brown rice, peas & carrots quickly pan-fried with an egg (be sure to check with your doctor for advice on when to introduce eggs)
  4. Chicken, broccoli, brown rice and applesauce lightly processed in blender or food processor. To add more texture, add additional rice after blending.
  5. Ditalini pasta with diced tomatoes and peas with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  6. Diced avocado, brown rice, black beans and small diced tomatos w/ juices- it’s a taco bowl for baby (If your baby likes spice add a dash of cumin)
  7. For breakfast: oatmeal-blueberry pancakes and frozen fruit – defrost it in microwave and it becomes a delicious syruppy sweet that babies love (This one Jojo still loves)

Please comment if you would like more ideas for your 6-12 month old, or if you would like more details about each recipe idea. There will be recipes to come for 12months+ in my next post.

And we’re off…

As you may have guessed from the title of my blog, I like food. There is no time I find more calming than the time I spend in my kitchen experimenting with a new recipe or conjuring up a late night home-baked dessert when that ole’ sweet tooth kicks in.  On my worst days, the kitchen is the place that saves me, especially when I have a full fridge of goodies, and infinite possibilities for a menu. Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m food obsessed… but when I am not in my kitchen, I’m often planning my next recipe, searching the internet for recipes or watching one of the twenty-episodes of “The Chew” that are sitting idly on my DVR (When I’m not chasing around my one year old). Ok, I get it, maybe I am.

I suppose this obsession is genetic, I’m part Italian. The “love for cooking” gene sits right next to the “I love to watch my family eat my cooking” gene. It’s in my blood. I come from a long line of cooks. As a child, I can remember sitting in my grandma and grandpa’s kitchen watching them fuss over the pasta,  zeppolis, pizza and anisette cookies, arguing about how best to fry the zeps, sauce the pies or frost the cookies. To this day, I don’t think I can ever mix up a special Easter batch of anisette cookies without thinking of how my grandfather lectured me on the proper way to mix the ingredients, after all he was the expert (even though I never saw him mix a batch of his own). Nor can I make homemade pizza without hearing him remind me not to over sauce. I love you grandpa and yes you were right!

My Grandma is an amazing cook. To this day I cannot figure out how to make her sauce even though she has explained “how” a dozen times. She has the magic touch. There’s just something effortless in the way she cooks that inspires me. My food memories start with her cooking and they are some of the best memories I have from my childhood. Zucchini and eggs, fried zucchini, fried zucchini flours, (yes we ate a lot of zucchini)  homemade sausage, anisette cookies, zeppolis, cream puffs, coconut dreams, rock biscotti, cheesecake, meatballs, pizzaquina, cavatelli, gnocci, gimbaut??(and no I still can’t spell half of the foods we made), strawberry shortcake, coconut custard pie, apple pie, homemade cannolis, all of these foods remind me of fun times spent at grandma and grandpa’s table with my family laughing, poking fun at each other and fighting over who was going to get to the end piece from the loaf of Italian bread and who was going to dunk their bread in the delicious tomatoy olive oil at the bottom of the salad bowl. Yea, those were the days!

Grandma’s love for cooking was infectious because my mother, her sister and all of their children also love to cook and bake. When I think about growing up in my house, I always remember the smell of a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. Mom is a great baker. She can make just about anything from scratch and is notorious for always seeking out healthier recipes for the delicious sweets that we enjoy. Whether its sneaking a little wheat germ into a cookie to give her kids more fiber, or trying out new healthier substitutions, my mom was always testing out new recipes for sweets some were awesome, while others were obviously too healthy for my childish taste buds…yes mom I could taste the wheat germ ;)! You’re the best mom!

But perhaps this is where my cooking quest started. Now, I am a new mom of a one year old boy, Jojo, and I find myself continuing Grandma and mom’s cooking legacy with a focused eye on making food that is both delicious and healthy for my son that will also please my husband and me. My focus since Jojo has started to eat our food has been to translate meals that I would typically cook for my husband and me into kid friendly meals that are well-balanced and delish! I got off to a rocky start, but as my son grows and I become more honed in on what he likes, I have had many successes and I want to share them!

I created this blog to help other mom’s who may be seeking meals to cook their picky toddlers that are not over-processed and do not come from a package. I want to share my recipes and experiences, and hopefully encourage others to take the time to cook for their family and give their child fun “food memories” to take with them on their journey through life like I did. Stay tuned for my next post which will be some easy starter recipes for your toddler that are easy to prepare and delish!