Last Gasp

October 4th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Grilling, Quick, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup

We’re not the types who keep the Weber burning all year long — something just doesn’t feel right to me about grilling a leg of lamb while wearing a parka. Which means that this past Saturday night, when the sun was on its way down before the girls’ muddy cleats had been kicked off, may have just marked our final grilled fish dinner of the season. But it was a good one. (more…)

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Venn Diagram Dinner

April 29th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Pasta, Pork and Beef

OK, so remember that dinner I wanted us all to make together this week? This is it above: Orechiette with Sausage and Broccoli. You’ll notice that no plate looks the same. Abby had the pasta and broccoli, Phoebe had the broccoli and sausage. Mom and Dad had it all mixed together. (Cool that broccoli was the common thread, no?) Anyway, when I put the bowls up against each other, it reminded me so much of living, breathing Venn Diagram that I couldn’t resist the urge to sketch up an actual one:

What does this teach us exactly? (Besides the fact that I have serious problems?) Hopefully it reminds us that family dinner is a constantly evolving algorithm of taste and logistics. That the overlapping rings will spin around and reposition based on factors that are beyond our control. All you can do is put the same delicious meal in front of them and assume that somehow everyone will still get exactly what they want.

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Easter Egg Cobb Salad

April 5th, 2010 · No Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Picky Eating, Sides, Salads, Soup

I am ashamed to say that it has never been hard for me to throw away my childrens’ artwork. Not all of it, of course. My general rule is that it must be either a) truly technically astounding or b) depict a family member. Everything else: into the recycling bin. (Poor Abby is still recoveirng from seeing her rattlesnake watercolor being heaved into a truck by a mustachioed sanitation worker.) But I must admit, it’s pure joy being able to sacrifice an artfully decorated Easter egg at the altar of dinner. This motley dozen (do take note of the Michael-Jackson themed “Beat it” one) was the inspiration for a family favorite: Cobb Salad. The recipe is sort of Stone-Soupish — a hard-boiled egg is a nice starting point, but with bacon to fry and greens to wash and chop, it is indeed only a starting point — but it’s one of those recipes that seems to work no matter what you have in the fridge. Deconstruct it for happier results with the kids, and eliminate all evidence of egg shells down the garbage disposal. Click to the jump for the recipe.

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Fish Presents

March 26th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Seafood

It didn’t take us long to figure out that, when it comes to rolling out a new product at the family table, so much depends upon the marketing campaign. I doubt our kids would have gone within a mile of cauliflower had we not first introduced it to them as “white broccoli.” They wouldn’t have sniffed brussels sprouts had we not sold them relentlessly as “baby lettuces.” Same goes for baked beans (“sweet beans”), bell peppers (“rainbow peppers”), dried cranberries (“red raisins”), and on and on. It’s the oldest trick in advertising and that’s not by accident.

Our latest venture in rebranding involved the kind of intimidating-sounding fish en papillote, which is just a fancy way of saying fish steamed in parchment paper. Neither description had a chance of flying with our kids. So we came up with something a little more intriguing. (Notice I did not say misleading.) Fish Presents, is what we decided on. Tonight we’re having fish presents! “Presents?” they asked. I gave them no further information.

The best thing about this meal is that you can chop everything ahead of time and then have the kids help you assemble and “wrap” the presents. So I sliced up 1 lemon and 1/2 a medium red onion, nice and thin, and 1 cup of shitake mushrooms. I boiled about 10 baby bok choy in salted water for two minutes, strained, and set aside. I poured 1/4 cup of olive oil into a small bowl and added a few red pepper flakes. Then the kids grabbed their stools, and we started the assembly line. Here’s how it goes:

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Roast Chicken with Vegetables

March 14th, 2010 · 13 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Uncategorized

People ask me all the time if I’m interested in having a third kid. The answer (for now, at least) is: Why would I when a cake mixer has two beaters to lick and a chicken has two drumsticks to serve? (Shouldn’t I take it as some sort of sign that the girls are both crazy about the legs while Andy and I are perfectly content with the breast and thighs?) Anyway — I would say a roast chicken is the recipe I get the most requests for from my friends. One of them — Lori — has even gone so far as saying she feels that being able to roast a chicken should be a requirement of motherhood. If that is the case, then I was not an official mother until I came upon this recipe two years ago. It requires no flipping from breast to back — once it’s in the oven, it’s in. I love that. And the carrots it roasts upon drink up all the chicken fat, which the girls love. They pass on the barley arugula salad I made with it last week, so I just let them have a roll. But as far as I’m concerned, it still counts as One Meal.

Perfect Roast Chicken

6 potatoes (anything but baking potatoes), cut into chunks
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1 whole roasting chicken (organic if you can swing it) about 4 pounds (make sure little packet of giblets removed from cavity)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, pricked several times with a knife
1 small bunch fresh thyme

Heat oven to 425°F. Arrange potatoes and carrots in a large oven-proof skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile,  rinse inside and outside of chicken under cold water and pat dry.  Brush chicken skin with melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  Fill cavity with lemon and thyme.  Place chicken breast-side up over roasting vegetables and continue roasting until chicken is a golden brown and juice run clear when thigh is pierced with a fork, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove chicken from the oven, carve, and serve with…

Barley & Arugula Salad

Cook barley according to package directions. Toss with baby arugula and your favorite red- or white-wine based vinaigrette. (I added a little storebought pesto to mine, but you could also just add whatever fresh herb is lying around.) Add shredded Parmesan and toss.

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