But, having kids over is such a delight.
In addition to having a less-than-kid-safe place, I don’t really cook kid food. I don’t know what kid food is. But, being new to the Cambridge community, I figured I should at least be open minded. I IMed my friend Caroline, the mother of two adorable kids to get some suggestions for what to make that would be “normal food” but wouldn’t leave three kiddy tummies grumbling.
Caroline is my friend Meira’s sister, and the Katz family in Atlanta “adopted” me when my parents moved to California and it was too hard to travel home for Jewish holidays. I got to know the Atlanta Toco Hills community quite well and I always aspire to incorporate into my own home their warm southern hospitality.
My online conversation with Caroline went something like this:
me: i’m having people over and 3 kids. any suggestions what to make? i want to make real food
caroline: how old?
me: not entirely sure. 1 boy, maybe 2. 2 girls – 2+ and maybe 5ish? one of the moms said her kids eat ‘kid stuff, you know, carbs.’ UMMM, NO, I DON’T KNOW!
caroline: ok. make noodles and nuggets
me: i don’t like noodles and i’m not making nuggets. i’m making one main dish for everyone. hmm…not sure what main to make, but i’ll figure that out later. does orzo count as noodles? i want to make arugula pesto orzo
caroline: yum – i’d like that. it sounds good. but just make noodles. noodles and nuggets
me: i don’t have noodles. i don’t eat noodles. i don’t make noodles. and i’m not buying nuggets
caroline: i’m telling you, noodles and nuggets
me: well, she said carbs — how about potatoes? that’s carbs, right? and i prefer to make veggie carbs than pasta carbs
caroline: potatoes are good, but noodles and nuggets are a winner
me: ok, well maybe i’ll find some fun shaped noodles just in case. wait…maybe I can make meira’s pretzel chicken — is that sort of like nuggets?
caroline: that could work
With that direction, I created a menu, trying to follow my typical formula and determined to not cater to the kids, but to make adult food and accommodate them as appropriate.
My typical formula is: starter = soup or appetizer; salad; challah; main; 2 vegetables; 1 starch; dessert (often chocolate).
For this dinner, I made:
Chocolate & Zucchini’s Cauliflower Soup with Turmeric and Hazelnuts/Soupe de Chou-Fleur, Curcuma, et Noisette
Homemade challah; hummus, baby carrots, grape tomatoes
Meira’s pretzel chicken (in lieu of nuggets)
Roasted butternut squash with balsamic vinegar
Tri-color noodles (naked)
Lavender cake, made into cupcakes (some with sprinkles)
This was definitely a much simpler meal that I might normally have made, and the noodles for the kids was my biggest compromise. The shocker was the soup’s popularity with Yedidya – the 2-year old boy who kept eating spoonfuls from his mother’s bowl. Even though my soup did not look as elegant as Clotilde’s (actually, Yedidya’s father guessed that it might be cauliflower and mustard soup…), it still is a sophisticated soup.
The funniest part of the evening was when I had no toys for the kids to play with, but found some empty SweetRiot and Godiva Pearls metal boxes that the younger kids has a ball playing with. Forget the expensive toys…just give them some little metal boxes to play with and they’ll entertain themselves all evening. Or at least for an hour of two.
Many of the recipes from this meal will follow in the coming days, but I can’t leave you without the “nuggets” recipe.
Meira’s Pretzel Chicken (aka, nuggets)
Based on Meira’s directions. This is a very approximate recipe and quantities can be increased as necessary. This is a really easy recipe and the chicken stays quite moist even if you have to reheat it. When I made the recipe for dinner, I marinated the chicken overnight, but breaded and baked it in the last minutes before sundown, so I didn’t have time to photograph the final product and there were very few leftovers. I made a second smaller batch using a slightly different process, with a shorter marinating time (which didn’t much alter the taste) and a quicker, less clean-up required, pretzel crushing method (which resulted in a less even coating). The pictures are not as pretty, but perhaps more realistic for what my friend Yael sometimes refers to as “harried housewives make shabbat” – and this is how she refers to one of her favorite synagogue-sponsored cookbooks!
2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts; can also use drumsticks
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T mustard (I used moutard a l’ancien, a whole grain mustard, but this isn’t necessary)
1 t lemon juice
1 T honey (optional)
Pretzels – I used a mix of regular mini twists and healthier whole wheat, low salt pretzels
Marinade chicken: mix soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice and honey (if using) in a bowl or zip-lock bag. Cut chicken breasts into strips perpendicular to the grain of the muscle (should get about 10-12 strips for 2 chicken breasts) and marinate in liquid for at least 30 minutes or overnight (depending on how much time you have).
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Make coating: crush pretzels by hand with rolling pin in a bag (will have larger pieces) or using a blender (for a finer, more even coating). Meira usually does this by hand, but I think I prefer the blender method. The pictures were taken with the rolling pin method.
Dredge the marinated chicken strips (and drumsticks) in pretzel crumbs to coat. Place in single layer on cookie sheet or pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
Can be reheated in oven at ~200°F for 15-20 minutes.