Life with a Food Mom

March 19th, 2012 · 33 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick


Do you know how annoying it is every night to have to wait another five hours for Mom to finish taking pictures of her food? If you are wondering why she has to take pictures of food, well, you’re looking at it. Take for instance a black bean burrito! Shrimp rolls! And this chicken with artichokes that you are looking at right now. I think that all of you — well most of you — are sitting at the table and having your parents sit right down and eating a delicious dinner. It’s different in my house. I have to wait, as I told you, for fiiiive hours for ONE picture to be tooken of SHRIMP SALAD!!! That seems psychotic to me. I’m an innocent child! All I want to do is sit down at the table and enjoy my dinner. Imagine if you were me, sitting at the table with a warm ficelle right in front of you without EATING IT! It’s TORTURE! All of you out there are LUCKY. You sit at the table with your family, pick up your fork, and eat. My life would change if my mom wasn’t a blogger! I do have one positive reason why being a food blogger’s daughter is fun. It is fun because every night we get to have a different dinner that some families might never have. We have interesting dinners and basically I have not had one dinner that was made by Mom or Dad that was not fantabulous. Except the egg dinners that are all mushy and slimy and D-I-S-G-U-S-T-I-N-G in my opinion. – ABBY, 8   :evil: :roll: :mrgreen:


Chicken with Artichokes in Creamy Mustard Sauce

1 1/3 pounds chicken thighs, salted and peppered
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes, or to taste
8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) thawed frozen artichokes canned artichokes (drained) or to taste
zest from 1 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 – 1/3 cup cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
chopped parsley or thyme

In a large skillet, brown chicken pieces in olive oil over medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, about 2-3 minutes a side. (They do not have to cook through.) Remove, decrease heat to medium, and add onion. Cook a minute or two, scraping brown bits leftover from chicken. Add tomatoes, artichokes, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Nestle chicken thighs in the vegetables then add wine and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes.

While it’s simmering, whisk together cream and mustard. Remove skillet from heat and stir in creamy mustard mixture.

Garnish with parsley or thyme. Serve with rice. Or ficelle — the par-baked loaf from Trader Joe’s. The kids will sit through any food photography nonsense if they have one of these waiting for them at the other end.


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Quick and Easy Pork Fried Rice

January 11th, 2012 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

It’s almost irresponsible of me to tell you about the way I served this meal to my kids — because it’s exactly the way that, if practiced often enough, will drive you to swear off family dinner forever. I love fried rice. Before Andy and I had kids we’d make it with shrimp and pork and chicken all the time. Or at least we’d always make it when we had leftover rice from sushi or Chinese takeout, which was surprisingly often. Nowadays, though, with Trader Joe’s frozen cooked rice (which I highly recommend) we can, in theory make fried rice meals as the main event instead of the spinoff. But we don’t. That’s because, as most of you know by now, we have two miniature egg-o-thropes in the house. And one rice-hater to boot. I’ve spent more hours that I should probably admit, thinking about how to deconstruct this old favorite so that we can all enjoy it in one form or another as a family meal. But as I found out yesterday, some things are just not meant to be. Even quick and easy and cheap and deLISHous meals like this one. Abby ended up having her version as you see below — with pork, rice, and peas that were tossed with soy sauce tableside. Phoebe ended up having…a barbecue pork sandwich on a biscuit and a butter lettuce salad with tomatoes and onions on the side. What was supposed to be quick and easy and delicious became drawn-out and complicated and…delicious. In spite of the drama, I’m giving you the recipe anyway — it’s pretty clear I won’t make it again until the girls are college-bound, but it’s too good a recipe to not share with families who might have better children luck. Who says I don’t do anything nice for you? (more…)

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A Hint of Hedonism

October 11th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog as long as I have, and never told you about one of my greatest talents. (No, not my proclivity for cocktails.) Last night as I made dinner, it occurred to me that I have a remarkable ability to convince myself that whatever I’m making for my family is healthy — even on nights when I am forced to go upstairs to change my T-shirt that has been splattered with the canola oil I used to fry the deliciously crispy skillet potatoes you see above.

Because the potatoes are from my favorite organic vendor at the farmer’s market. And they are technically vegetables. And they are sitting next to a pile of kale. (Remember the Kale Effect? Which is related to Andy’s Broccoli Rule?) And plus, we were having a college friend over for dinner, and when a guest is at the table, the decision to fry the potatoes (instead of roast them) and the decision to use an extra pat or two of butter in the pan-sauce for the chicken (chicken = not red meat) is a no-brainer. Extra fat doesn’t officially register in the arteries when you are cooking for someone else. I can’t believe you didn’t know that.

Last night was a little more buttery than I’m used to, but I will say that as a general rule, I am a firm believer that there needs to be at least a hint of hedonism on the dinner plate — whether it’s crumbled feta in the salad, sour cream on the baked potatoes, or bacon in the brussels sprouts. Because if every meal is boiled kale with quinoa and flax, I have to ask: Where is the joy in life? (more…)

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It’s Just a Scallop

July 19th, 2011 · 20 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Quick, Seafood

This is a cheap shot kind of story but I’m going to tell it anyway.

Last summer I was having dinner at a friend’s house. She is about ten years ahead of me in the parenting game and I’ve always looked to her for advice on everything from day camps to birthday cake bakeries to how best survive third grade clique drama without ending up in the headlines.  She has three daughters, each one more accomplished than the next. At the time of this dinner, the oldest was about to start her junior year in college, the middle one, a homebody, was getting ready to leave for her freshman year at a big school in the Midwest, and the youngest, a high school sophomore, had just returned from doing volunteer work in South America. None of them were at the dinner table with us. In fact, none of them were in the house — until about half way through our delicious grilled salmon, at which point the middle daughter wandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge. (more…)

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Salmon if You’re Sick of Salmon

February 1st, 2011 · 17 Comments · Dinner, Seafood

If you’ve been following this blog for a little while, you know by now that salmon was the first fish our kids ate. Which was fine by us — it was healthy, flavorful, and one of the few foods (in general) that we could all eat the exact same way at the dinner table. So we ate a lot of it. A lot of it. With yogurt-mustard-dill sauce, with hoisin glaze, mixed into salmon salads and salmon-rice bowls. At Japanese restaurants, I’d watch with both pride and horror as Phoebe would peel off the salmon from my sushi with her fingers then dangle piece after piece into her mouth. We have eaten so much of the omega-3 powerhouse in fact, that on Sunday Andy found his heart sinking a little at the fish counter when Phoebe pointed definitively at the wild salmon filets. Her choice for dinner.

What was he going to do, say no? No, he wasn’t. So he also picked up some coconut milk and lemongrass — ingredients that are not regularly in our pantry — and got motivated to make something that was different than any other salmon we’ve eaten. And he did. Browning the salmon in a skillet then letting it finish cooking in a pool of aromatic coconut milk gave the fish the most delicate texture — almost like it was poached.  Goes without saying that we will be eating it again soon. (more…)

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Pork Chops with Kale

November 29th, 2010 · 18 Comments · Pork and Beef, Quick

Very few things make me happier than discovering a dinner that:

a) does not require every pot and pan in the kitchen.
b) runs no risk of instigating a whinefest at the table.
c) can be prepared in the same amount of time (or less) that it takes for my second and third graders to do their homework at the kitchen table.

I’m not sure this last point was what Giuliano Bugialli had in mind when he dreamed up the delicate braciole de maiale con cavolo nero (Pork Chops with Kale) in his 1977 classic Fine Art of Italian Cooking. Unless he was cooking for high schoolers who had a full load of AP courses — because his version takes over 60 minutes and this adaptation takes under 30. Is it as good as it would be if I made it the way he instructed? Of course not. Is it a sacrilege to subject the recipe from a master to my compulsive corner-cutting impulse? Definitely. Will I be corner-cutting this recipe again soon on a night when I must get something delicious on the table quickly? Absolutely.

Pork with Kale
Adapted from
Fine Art of Italian Cooking

Wash and cut 1 bunch of kale into 2-inch pieces. Boil for 15 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, heat a few glugs of olive oil in a deep skillet. Add 1 garlic clove and cook over low heat, just enough to flavor oil without burning, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add 4-6 pork chops (butterflied, or pounded thin) that have been salted, peppered, and sprinkled with a little fennel seed (optional) and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Using a metal measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of hot water from the kale pot and pour into a heatproof bowl. Whisk 1 tablespoon tomato paste in the hot water then add tomatoey liquid to the pork chops. Cover skillet and simmer until pork is cooked through, about 15 minutes. In final 5 minutes, add kale to skillet and let it drink in the liquid. Serve with brown rice if you need it. (The Trader Joe’s fully cooked kind to make life easier.)

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Restaurant Replication

September 28th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Quick, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook

The first time I made this chicken and broccoli for Abby she bestowed upon me the highest form of praise: Mom, how’d you get this to taste like the one we order from the Chinese restaurant? Now, granted, this is no fancy Chinese restaurant. It’s so not fancy, actually, that we’ve never even seen the inside of the place. But their chicken and broccoli dish is one of the first I can remember that Abby ate without any “eat-this-or-you-won’t-get-that” nonsense that dominated our dinner table conversation for so many years. So naturally, I set about trying to replicate it — minus whatever mystery ingredients made the leftovers coagulate in the takeout container the next day. I found success by riffing on a Cashew Chicken recipe in the fantastic Great Food Fast cookbook that Everyday Food published a few years ago. What struck me about this version was the hoisin — I knew Abby was a sucker for the sweet and spicy Chinese barbecue sauce and I had a jar of it in the fridge just begging to be used. You can find hoisin in the Asian department of pretty much any supermarket, but I find that most of those are too sweet. If you can swing it, try to pick up a jar at an Asian specialty market.

And by the way, on page 113 of the cookbook, we replicate three more kid-menu VIPs: chicken fingers, salmon teriyaki, and popcorn shrimp.

Restaurant-style Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown 3 or 4 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces, tossed in a little cornstarch if you have time) in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. After a few minutes, push all the chicken to one side and turn down heat to medium-low. Add 2 cloves garlic (minced) and 1/2 large onion (chopped) and cook about 2 minutes until onions are soft. Mix together with the chicken, then add about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, turn up the heat, and stir. Add 2 heaping tablespoons hoisin, 1/4 cup water and cook until chicken is heated through. Add steamed broccoli and cashews (my kids like it without cashews) and serve with rice.

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Wax-On Wax-Off, the Kitchen Edition

September 21st, 2010 · 19 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

My friend and Time for Dinner co-author Pilar Guzman has a theory about cooking from recipes (as opposed to improvising with what you’ve got in front of you). She calls it the Wax-On/Wax-Off theory. Remember how the Karate Kid had no idea he was developing muscle memory for defensive blocks until Mr. Miyagi took away the car-waxing cloth???  Pilar believes that there is a whole world of capable cooks out there who are still waxing cars…I mean, still relying on recipes even though their highly developed culinary muscles have fully prepared them to start winging it in the kitchen.

That person was me until a few years ago. I remember the recipe that turned it around for me — Chicken with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts. I had eaten some version of the dish in a restaurant and for whatever reason decided that this was the meal that was going to be my Crane Kick. I had probably cooked and edited 4200 skillet meals by that point in my life so I knew the basic technique was…

Brown meat in fat. Remove meat. Add vegetables. Add meat back to pan with some form of liquid. Simmer until meat is cooked through.

So I thought about the ingredients I needed, thought about the technique, then tested myself. The exercise not only yielded the most delicious dinner that even the girls inhaled like wolves, but ignited a little flicker of confidence that I knew would just keep growing. And it has. I think it’s a huge reason why I’ve been able to keep the family dinner thing going. (Is there anything less appealing than bobbing back and forth between a pot and a cookbook during the six-o’clock scramble?) So now, it’s your turn to test yourself. Up there in the picture are all the ingredients you need (chicken, bacon, brussels, onion, wine…forgot to show salt & pepper) to create Chicken with Bacon and Brussels (finished dish pictured below). See how you do…and let me know how it turns out.

Can I tell you how much I love this dinner? Not only is the bacon/ brussels combo genius, but the whole meal takes about a half hour and uses only one pot. (more…)

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Chicken Curry with Apples

June 17th, 2010 · 13 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

I love this dinner. I’ve been making some variation of it for fifteen years — in fact I almost want to make the claim that it was the first recipe I had ever clipped from the New York Times Dining Section (technically the “Living” section back then…God I’m old) and cooked in my Upper East Side roach-infested studio.  The fact that the dish still holds up at my now kid-infested dinner table is a testament to its brilliance. The original version had you concocting your own curry blend with turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, but I’ve been lazy about this in the past few years and tend to fall back my decent-enough storebought madras curry blend.

Think of the meal as a starter curry for your kids — you can add as much or as little of the curry blend as you think they can handle. But be sure to include the apples — they make the dish fresh-tasting and lend sweetness for the kids. I garnish my plate with sliced almonds (or cashews if I have them) because I like the crunch, but that’s not a do-or-die move either.

Starter Curry: Curried Chicken With Apples

1/2 large onion chopped
2 teaspoons oil (olive or canola)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 large stalk celery, chopped
1 large apple (such as Fuji, Granny Smith), peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder (Madras curry if you think the kids can handle it)
3 to 4 medium-size boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes as shown above
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Suggested garnishes: Plain yogurt, chopped cilantro or mint, sliced almonds or cashews

In a deep skillet, over medium high heat, saute onion in oil until it begins to soften. Add garlic, celery and apple. Cook a couple of minutes then add ginger and curry powder, stirring to combine.

Push the ingredients to one side of the pan, add a little more oil, and brown chicken on both sides. Then, stir all ingredients together and add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 5 more minutes until chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and top with desired garnishes.

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Pork Chops Tonight?

May 13th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

From: “Jenny” <>
To: Andy
Sent: Mon May 10 6:41:40 2010
Subject: Pork chops tonight?

If so what should I do for prep?

From: Andy
To: “Jenny” <>
Sent: Mon, May 10, 2010 6:42:33 PM
Subject: Re: Pork chops tonight?

Awww yeah. Get mustard apples onions ready.

From: “Jenny” <>
To: Andy
Sent: Mon May 10 6:55:21 2010
Subject: Re: Pork chops tonight?

onion diced or sliced? mustard dijon or grainy?

From: Andy
To: “Jenny” <>
Sent: Mon, May 10, 2010 6:56:08 PM
Subject: Re: Pork chops tonight?

sliced. either.

Pork Chops with Mustardy Apples and Onions (served at 7:36 PM)

1 large onion sliced
1 apple peeled and slivered
olive oil
3 boneless pork chops
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider (or water if you don’t have it)
salt & pepper

In a large skillet, sautee onions and apples in olive oil over medium-low heat about five minutes. Push to side of pan. In same pan, raise heat to medium, add pork chops and brown about 4 minute a side.

Remove pork chops to a plate. Add mustard, vinegar, and cider (or water) to the pan, scraping the bits from the bottom and reducing for about one minute. Add pork chops back in the pan. Integrate with the onions and apples, cover and cook another three minutes until cooked through. Serve.

the kid plate

We served with a green salad tossed with feta, walnut, pomegranate seeds, and a simple, white wine-based vinaigrette. Other fruit-nut-cheese salad ideas.

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