Posts Tagged ‘easy’

noodles and nuggets

I had a dinner party earlier this month (shabbat dinner) and invited 6 adults and 3 children. I love having kiddies in my home, but my home is NOT child-proofed. I have a lot of things lying around. A lot. So much so that when my friend Lau in London told me she redecorated her place to be “minimalist chic” I remarked that mine must be “cluttered chic.” Lots of dangerous stuff that kids can knock over, or worse…ingest.

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.

Netanel and Eden (Katz) Gold - Caroline's kids

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

C&Z's Soupe de Chou-Fleur, Curcuma, et Noisette - NOTE, mine is much yellower than Clotilde's

C&Z's Soupe de Chou-Fleur, Curcuma, et Noisette - NOTE, mine is much yellower than Clotilde's

Homemade challah; hummus, baby carrots, grape tomatoes

Spinach salad with slow-roasted tomatoes and mushrooms

Meira’s pretzel chicken (in lieu of nuggets)

Roasted potatoes

Roasted butternut squash with balsamic vinegar

Tri-color noodles (naked)

Espresso shortbread

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.

I keep the sweetriot and chocoiste boxes near my makeshift pantry...

I keep the sweetriot and chocoiste boxes near my makeshift pantry...

Many of the recipes from this meal will follow in the coming days, but I can’t leave you without the “nuggets” recipe.

pretzel chicken close up

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!

Serves 2-3

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.

nuggets in the pan

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not quite clotilde

windowsill herb garden

I mentioned early on that Clotilde/Chocolate & Zucchini is one of my inspirations for starting this site. When I am hungry, I often look to her site for ideas, and one of my favorite foods to cook when it’s cold outside is squash. It is the epitome of autumn and winter.

A few weeks ago, I ran a search for squash on C&Z, and the first recipe that came up was Salade Tiède de Potimarron et Haricots Blancs/Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad (until she posted another recipe yesterday: Brussel Sprouts with Onions and Squash Seeds). I’ve looked at the recipe so many times and have been jealous of her stories of wandering through the streets of Paris, buying exotic ingredients in the markets, and overhearing fascinating conversations in chic cafes. Ahhh…Paris.

But, I figure…what am I waiting for? The albeit brief Boston thaw is ending, it’s cold again, and I’m super hungry. I have an acorn squash that I bought yesterday. It may be the most common of the squashes around here but it’s a pretty little creature nonetheless…so, I took a few pictures harnessing my inner Clotilde (“Hello, Gorgeous!“):

Acorn Squash ("Hello Gorgeous!")

Then, I created a little bit of atmosphere.


And since I had all the ingredients including fresh rosemary from my windowsill herb garden, I got to work recreating Clotilde’s recipe with a host of short-cuts, getting from cutting board to plate in 45 minutes (though I still have dishes in my sink!).

And then a taste. Indian-style spices co-mingled with the sweetness of squash, the scent of Middle-Eastern orange flower water, heartiness of the beans and slight bite of the rosemary. A surprising melange of flavors that work so well together, especially on a cold night in front of the fire.

Not quite Clotilde, but pretty damn good!

Now, what to do with the acorn squash seeds? Maybe I’ll roast them like pumpkin seeds…

Quick Warm Squash and White Bean Salad

Quick Warm Acorn Squash and White Bean Salad

Adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini (Salade Tiède de Potimarron et Haricots Blancs/Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad).

Serves 2

For squash:

1 medium-sized acorn squash

2 t crushed garlic (I used garlic in a jar)

drizzle olive oil

1 t balsamic vinegar

1 t curry powder or ras al hanout (a Moroccan spice mix)

dash salt

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Cut into 8 slices and remove skin with vegetable peeler. Cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss with remaining ingredients and put on baking sheet into oven for ~40 minutes until tender and slightly browned, stirring half-way through.

For beans:cannelini beans with rosemary

1 can of cannellini beans

sprig of fresh rosemary

kosher salt

Drain and rinse beans. Put in small pot, with rosemary and pinch of salt; cover with water and simmer on low for ~20  minutes. Try not to let them get mushy. Drain beans and remove rosemary sprig.

For dressing:

1 T almond butter

2 t olive oil

1 t orange flower water

1 t balsamic vinegar

fine sea salt, freshly ground pepper

fresh cilantro (optional)

Make dressing: In a medium bowl in which you plan to serve salad, mix together all ingredients except salt and pepper. Thin with a drop or two of water if necessary.

Compose salad: Add beans to dressing and toss gently. Add squash and agian toss gently. (I did not toss very gently and you can see that I squashed the delicate beans…and squash <groan>.) Add salt and pepper if necessary and cilantro if desired (I forgot). Serve.


–  for squash: 2 large butternut squash (~6 lbs); quadruple squash ingredients (but curry/ras al hanout to taste); will need 2 cookie sheets for baking

– for beans: 2 cans beans

– for dressing:

1/4 C almond butter

3 T olive oil

1 T orange flower water

1 T + 1 t balsamic vinegar (though, I add a little extra)

fine sea salt and freshly ground  pepper to taste

fresh cilantro (optional)

– otherwise, follow directions as above

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