Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Orange Scented Roast Turkey Breast

So last week I had pulled out what I thought was chicken from the freezer - defrosted it - and low and behold - it was 1/2 a turkey breast on the bone!

Oh what to do!!!

This came out absolutely moist and delicious - so easy - and all loved it! I served with rice and a salad.

Orange Scented Roast Turkey Breast

1/2 turkey breast - about 3 lbs.
1 orange - cut into quarters
1 yellow onion - sliced
2-3 tbsp margarine
2 tsp poultry seasoning
orange zest from 1/2 orange
1 1/2 cup chicken stock

kosher salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mash poultry seasoning into margarine in a small bowl so
it is well mixed in. Also mash in the orange zest.
3. Put onions and orange quarters on the bottom of a heavy casserole/roasting pan.
4. Put turkey breast on top of onions/oranges and spread the margarine mixture all over the top of the breast and skin. Rub some under the skin if you can.
5. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
6. Cover casserole and place in oven. Roast turkey for about 45 minutes. At 45 minutes, remove from oven, put in chicken stock and raise temperature to 400 degrees. Do not put cover back on. Cook about 30-45 minutes more, basting about every 15 minutes, or until thermometer reads 180.
7. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Snowflake Brownies

In Chicago, the public schools have been closed since Friday. First, professional development day. Then, school improvement day. Then Veteran's Day and now, parent/teacher conference day.

Fortunately, we have a great network of people to help watch our kids, and Jay is off on Veteran's Day anyway.

Today, I am home with the 5 yo and it is kind of icky outside - on top of which, I have a 1:00 meeting downtown (babysitter coming at noon), so there wasn't a whole lot of time to hit museums/etc. like I would usually do. I have found that baking and cooking with my kids is a lot of fun for me - and they simply love being in the kitchen. The other night while I was making dinner, the two kids completely emptied out one of my cabinets and made a second kitchen under the dining room table!

So, after dropping the 2 yo at daycare and running a couple of errands, we made Snowflake Brownies!

Now, I have never been much of a baker. And, truth be told, I believe that people come in 2 categories - baker or cook/chef. Similar to the "Beatles/Rolling Stones" and "Abbott and Costello/Three Stooges" debates, I believe that while you can come to "appreciate" the one you don't really care for as much - deep down, you can either be one or the other.

I am a cook (Beatles and Abbott and Costello too...I wonder if anyone has ever done a regression analysis of all these... hmmmm).

That being said, I do foray into baking every once and a while. And, I am not opposed to using mixes, as long as they are TERRIFIC!

So, today we made Snowflake Brownies.

Here's the recipe. (really not a recipe - but whatever!!)

Brownie Mix (We use Ghiradelli - but whichever you like is fine)
1 cup Vanilla Chips (The best you can get - of course - Caillebout makes great ones)
1 tbsp flour

1. Toss the vanilla chips with the flour and shake off (this will prevent the chips from "sinking to the bottom" of the brownies.)
2. Prepare brownie mix batter as instructed and mix in vanilla chips.
3. Bake as instructed and enjoy!!

Composed Salads - or How to Get Kids to Like Veggies

There has been a lot of talk in the past year (as always) as to the best way to get kids to eat veggies/fruits/etc. Lots of people have touted "hiding" vegetables in purees and then inserting them into dishes. Personally, I think this is a bit too sneaky, and doesn't actually get the kids to like veggies or different tastes, since they are "hidden."

I generally prescribe to the notion (as my kids have shown over time) that if you present them with a wide variety on a regular basis (and try a few times with different things), they will eventually try and may even get to like them. My daughter, for instance, for a long time, seemed to have an aversion to all things vegetable - now she is really starting to love veggies - crunchy ones that she can "dip" - but veggies all the same.

So, with that in mind (and knowing that both kids will eat hard boiled eggs), last night I made a modified version of Salad Nicoise. The kids loved taking different "choices" from the large bowl with groupings of different veggies, hard boiled eggs, tuna, etc. And then mixing it together on their plate with a simple homemade mustard dressing.

You can choose to make it more traditional and include things like anchovies or nicoise olives - or different veggies. I also sliced a demi-baguette for everyone to have with some butter.

Here are the basics.

Dani's Salad Nicoise

2 cups mixed salad greens (I used baby romaine)
2 cups red baby potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced or quartered
2 cups baby carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cans tuna, drained
2 cups green beans, "blanched" slightly so they are warm and slightly cooked, but not soggy
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled (I left them whole, but you can slice them too)


2 tbsp mustard
1 shallot sliced thin
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together ingredients for vinagrette and put aside.

In bottom of large platter or serving bowl, place salad greens. Put tuna in middle on top of the greens, and "groups" of green beans, carrots, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, celery on top of the greens around the tuna.

Let everyone pick what they want - spoon some vinagrette over it and dig in!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's Cold and Time for some WARM food!

Late fall/early winter has finally hit here in Chicago. After having incredibly beautiful weather for Halloween (I mean 75 degrees!!) it was raw and damp yesterday and today. Which of course means - comfort food time!

Tonight for dinner I went back to an old reliable - roast chicken with lemon (pre-heat oven to 425. Slice a large onion - toss with a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Clean whole chicken and pat down. Cut 2 lemons into quarters and shove into cavity of chicken with salt and pepper. Put chicken on top of onions. Brush with olive oil, bit more salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or until juices run clear. Yum!).

But, what to go with it? Winter type squash of course and a salad with some cucumbers, carrots, dried cranberries, dried blueberries and a light vinagrette!

Acorn Squash "flowers" with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar

1 acorn squash, cut into 1 inch diameter "circles" (cut squash in half the "round" way, scoop out seeds and cut disks about 1 inch thick)
2 granny smith apples, cored and cut in half
2 tbsp vegetable oil (olive oil is too strong a flavor here, I think)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425.
2. Place acorn squash and apples on lightly oiled cookie sheet so they are in a single layer.
3. Brush tops of squash with veggie oil and sprinkle evenly with light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as a bit of salt and pepper.
4. Roast squash for 30 minutes. Turn over squash circles after 30 minutes and roast another 30 minutes.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Ordered pizza for BFFs and the kids (including honorary older sister for A)...

But more importantly -


Thank goodness!

Now the real work begins people as we have to fix this mess that 8 years of the Bush administration has created.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bagels, Cream Cheese and a Dose of Guilt

Well, I was waiting for it. I knew it would happen sometime. And it did. Last night, my son asked me why I was not a "mommy helper" in his kindergarten class. And, by the way "Mommy, you need to be a mommy helper so you can come with me on field trips like the pumpkin farm - you missed it."


Of course, I told him that not all mommies get to go on field trips, but I would go on one during the year. That made him feel better for the moment (after having apparently quite the bad afternoon with our babysitter - he also lost one of the gourds he found that was shaped like his initial, so this was not a good thing).

In the meantime, work has been crazy. So, last night, if anyone is wondering... mini whole wheat bagels with cream cheese, a couple of cut up apples, and we called it a night!

Thank goodness it is Friday. I will be doing a lot of cooking tonight and tomorrow so hubby has some nutritious meals to serve to the kids while I am at the Public Health conference in San Diego.

(Sorry no recipe this morning... I will post the other night's lamb recipe later!)

Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And when you aren't in the mood to cook - for IJ

This evening I got a call from my beloved younger sister (who is probably reading this right now) and she tells me that this blog is causing her all sorts of angst. You know the kind - sibling rilvary - etc...

Anyway - for those of you that might be wondering....

1. I do serve my kids pizza. Sometimes we make it. Sometimes it is frozen from Trader Joe's. Tonight, after a really crazy bad day, I ordered in.

2. Sometimes (as I have said before) I give my kids breakfast for dinner. I mean really, who doesn't like waffles and fruit??

3. Although I try to make as many different things as possible, I rely on standbys such as roast chicken, pasta with pesto or some sort of simple sauce, sandwiches, rocky mountain toast, etc. a lot of times during the week. I just try to change them up and serve something new alongside.

(Which reminds my, my 5yo apparently really likes hard boiled eggs! A great nutritious breakfast and easy dinner to make with a couple of other things.)

4. We go out to eat about once a week. Well, a lot less now - and certainly not "fancy." But, just as with the pizza, sometimes I am simply not in the mood to cook. Or, we are out doing stuff and it is just easier to stop someplace. That being said, we try to frequent "healthier" places that don't serve "Kids Menus." I hate those. Who decided that kids only eat pizza, burgers, and chicken fingers? (Besides, chickens don't have fingers... I'm just saying). Sometimes we go to nicer restaurants - and sometimes we try some new things with the kids just to expose them to other places.

That's just a few "confessions" I want to make in order to help my sister manage the "oy - how do you live with her?????" type of reactions.

Lots of love to my sister.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Homemade Pasta with the Kids

Well, after nearly 17 years, I finally did it. I took out our Atlas Pasta Maker and the kids and I made pasta together. I've made pasta lots of times with my dad when I was a kid and since then have hand rolled pasta before the kids were born. But, I had forgotten how much fun it is!

The pasta we made (cappellini) was delicate and delicious. And it really is worth it to try and make. Even if you don't have the Atlas Pasta roller, you can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough as thin as possible and "hand cut" it into strips. Or, cut it into squares and make raviolis or dumplings.

Here is the recipe....

2 cups of flour (I used plain old white flour)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

1. Mound the flour in a pile on the counter.
2. Make a well in the center.
3. Gently beat the eggs and yolks together and put in the center of the "well" of flour.
4. Using a fork, stir the eggs, bringing down little bits of flour from the sides into the eggs. Keep mixing until you can't really stir with the fork anymore, then use your hands to bring the dough together and gently knead the dough. It will not be smooth, so don't worry about that. It will also be a bit sticky. Add a bit more flour if it is too wet, or a couple of drops of water if you can't get it to come together too well.
5. Once it has come together, pat it into a round disk, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Rolling out the pasta.

Since we have the rolling machine, it makes this a bit easier. But basically what you are doing is thinning out the dough enough to make pasta. So, the first thing we did was to cut off a small piece and run it through the pasta maker a couple of times to finish kneading the dough, folding in thirds each time to really smooth it out. Next we ran it through the largest setting (1). Then we decreased the setting to 2 and ran the pasta through. We continued doing this until we reached setting 7. (I think I may stop at 6 in the future, but we were having so much fun!!!)

You can see from the pictures that the dough gets longer and thinner each time. Once you reach desired thinness, put the pasta through the "cutting" part of the machine. Or, you can cut it by hand into thin strips using a pizza cutter or roll it into a long "log" and cut the noodles. There are a bunch of websites that show you how to do this.

Once the pasta is cut, toss it with a bit of flour to separate the noodles. Cook in lots of boiling, salted water for 1-2 minutes.

Toss with some olive oil, freshly grated parmesan and YUMMY!!!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rosh Hashanah Menu

Well, it is now Wednesday evening, and my house is almost back to normal. I think that we bought out most of the vegetables, apples and cornish hens in the metropolitan Chicago area. In order to accommodate the sundry groceries for all the cooking, we needed to put an eight foot catering table down the center of our kitchen, on which all sorts of stuff went. Our nanny exclaimed - "Are you opening a restaurant I don't know about?" when she saw what was going on!!

No - of course not - it was just the holidays!!!

After lots of deliberation about different menus, numbers of people, etc. I did decide to go rather simple. Over the next couple of posts, I will pull out some of the recipes, but for now - here was the menu (also good for dinner parties, etc...) although I did overdo the amounts. What is it about holidays that makes us make enough food to feed 10 people at least 3 times over??

Monday night menu

Chicken Soup with Carrot Coins
Roasted Chicken with Herbed Margarine (you can use butter if you don't keep kosher)
Green Salad (Romaine, Radicchio, Fennel) with Mustard/Honey Vinagrette
Kasha Varnishkes
Steamed Green Beans with Sea Salt
(dessert was provided by guest)

Tuesday night menu (a couple of vegetarians at the table - so most everything does not have any meat used at all)

Roasted Eggplant Salad
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Roasted Root Vegetables
Spinach and Baby Arugula Salad with Strawberries and Vinagrette
Steamed Green Beens with Lemon Zest
Cornish Hens with Sage and Cinammon
Apple and Raisin Crostada

Of course there were apples with honey and challah, wine, etc. with each meal.

For those that want to make a quick and easy dessert, here is what I did for Tuesday night!

Apple and Raisin Crostada (adapted/modified from recipe seen in Martha Stewart book)

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm which is non-dairy but still tastes good)
4 apples (I used 2 gala, 2 golden delicious) peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon + juice of same lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 egg - lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Defrost puff pastry as instructed on package. Roll out each sheet to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut one sheet into a circle about 12 inches wide (I used my colander to measure). Cut a circle out of the other sheet about 11 1/2 inches wide (I used the same colander to make and indentation then cut a little "in").
3. With scraps of puff pastry, cut out little leaves.
4. Place two circles and leaves in one layer on piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Put in refrigerator for 1/2 hour or longer (you can cover with plastic wrap - I didn't)
5. Mix together apples, raisins, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, some of the juice, nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.

To make the crostada:
1. Take out pastry from fridge. Place large circle on piece of parchment on cookie sheet (use the same one to save paper). Put apples and raisin mixture in the center of the circle, leaving about 1 inch around the edge. Put smaller circle on top. Use water to wet finger and run along edge of bottom circle. Pull up around top circle to seal and pinch closed. Use water to "paste" leaves decoratively on top of closed pastry. Cut 2-3 small lines in the top of the pastry to let steam escape.
2. Brush top with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
3. Bake in 400 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until top is puffed and brown.
4. Remove from oven and cool on rack.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Funny Named Food - Or, How to Get Kids to Eat Eggs

Well, we are now well into our first month of kindergarten and between dropping kids off, work, homework, dinner, etc. I am EXHAUSTED!!

However, I still have managed to cook most every night for the kids - and include veggies/fruit now and again. A couple of things I have learned over the past few weeks.

1. Kids will eat salad if you put salad dressing in a squirt/spray bottle and allow them to "spray" dressing on their salad. The problem is they spend lots of time squirting and less time eating - but if you limit the number of squirts to say "10" - it works well.

2. Kids still want to eat pizza every night. They will insist that they never have it. Even if they had it at 3 birthday parties the day before.

3. If you give something a silly name, kids will most likely eat it. Especially if you let them help make it. Say, like....

Rocky Mountain Toast (aka toast with an egg in the middle)

This recipe is for 1 piece of Rocky Mountain Toast. Obviously you do the same thing multiple times to make more than one piece. Also, I like mine with some roasted red peppers on top - but here is the basic recipe. Easy, quick, fun and the kids love it.

1 tsp butter
1 slice whole wheat/multi grain bread
1 egg

1. Prepare the toast. Using a circle cookie cutter (one that leaves about 1 inch around so the egg doesn't leak through), have the kids cut a circle in the middle of the bread. While they are doing this, heat a small frying pan (larger if you are doing a few at a time) with the tsp butter.

2. Put bread into the frying pan.

3. Break egg into the "circle." Break the yolk with a knife or fork. Don't worry if some spills over.

4. Once the egg is set and the toast is brown on one side, flip the toast and cook until the toast is browned and the egg is cooked through. Serve.

Now onto the multiple menus for the upcoming holidays.....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Of Kindergarten and Salad

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of preparing for the oldest's first foray into formalized schooling and just general end of summer craziness! Well, here's the good news - kindergarten is going extraordinarily well! He loves it! Hooray! He even is asking if a particular snack is "healthy." For some reason he seems to be stuck on canteloupe. Not that it is a bad snack - but he keeps asking.

A recent conversation went like this (me at top of stairs, son calling up from downstairs playroom)

"MOMMY!!!! Is canteloupe healthy?"

"What??? (son repeats question). Oh, why yes it is."

"Can I have canteloupe then?"

"We don't have any left. I will get some when I go to Trader Joe's. Do you want something else?"

"Yes. Do we have goldfish?"

Apparently goldfish is an adequate substitute for canteloupe. I did not know this.


Dinners have been a bit haphazard lately, although I have managed to pull lots of great veggies from our garden and make some great salads and sauces that the kids are loving! Last week we went to our local farmer's market and there was a terrific local farmer who had bunches of wonderful sun dried tomatoes. They were fresh - and so soft, with a bit of an acidity that was balanced by an olive fruitiness from the home pressed olive oil and fresh herbs that dressed them. (They also had wonderful home cured olives they had grown...but Jay doesn't like olives so I passed on the olives but bought 1/2 pint of the sun dried tomatoes). So, of course I wanted to use them in SOMETHING! At the same time, since things have been so crazy, I have been looking for quick and easy meals the kids will like and that are a bit more tasty than plain pasta.

With that in mind - this one is for all you moms out there who are hard pressed to get a quick, but healthy and fresh meal on the table.

Pasta with fresh tomato and basil sauce and Romaine salad with creamy mustard dressing

Pasta with fresh tomato and basil sauce

1 lb. fresh whole wheat pasta (penne, spaghetti, whatever you like)
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
2 big handfuls of fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup total)
1/8 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (we used the fresh ones - any you have on hand will do. If they are in oil, just reduce some of the cooking olive oil - and replace with a bit of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Bring water to boil. Once it is boiling, salt generously with about 2 tbsp of salt and add pasta. Cook until al dente and when it is done, drain and put on the side.
2. At the same time as pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in saute pan - not too hot, it shouldn't be smoking.
3. Add garlic and push around the pan to flavor oil (about 1 minute - make sure it doesn't brown - lower the heat if you need to.)
4. Add fresh tomatoes, basil, sun dried tomatoes and toss with warm olive oil over low heat about 10 minutes until tomatoes are warm throughout and have let off some of their juices. Basil will be slightly wilted.
5. Add drained pasta to the saute pan (or vice versa if the pan is not big enough to hold the pasta)

Serve with Romaine salad with creamy dressing (below)

Romaine salad with creamy mustard dressing

1-2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

For dressing:
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or any other white vinegar you like)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 pinch salt (about 1/2 tsp to start)
fresh ground pepper

1. Whisk together vinegar and mustard.
2. Whisk in olive oil and heavy cream.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Toss about 1/2 dressing with romaine lettuce. Add more if necessary.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Blueberries Blueberries Blueberries

This past week I decided to stop by a local fruit stand - Stanley's. Sometimes I do really well there - the prices are often terrific - and sometimes not so much. It is the type of place that is hit or miss and you have to use some of the veggies immediately to prevent spoilage. This week I did find some wonderful fresh baby spinach that was loose (SO much better than pre-packaged) and some beautiful scallions - 3 bunches for $1.oo!! Also for sale was a huge clamshell of blueberries.

My kids love fruit, so I figured this would be great - I wash it up - they eat it - etc... While they did eat a whole lot of it, there was quite a bit left over and it looked like it was going to go bad. So, I came up with an easy salad and dressing to use it up - was terrific!

Spinach salad with blueberry dressing

2-3 cups fresh baby spinach washed well and dried
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

Salad dressing
2-3 tablespoons of blueberries (smoosh them a bit in a cup)
Juice of one lemon and about 1 tsp of the zest
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard (I use Maille - it is the best... but any other kind will do)
1/2 cup good olive oil

Toss salad ingredients together. Mix together salad dressing ingredients except for olive oil
. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking.

Right before serving, toss a bit of the dressing with the salad - or serve the salad and put the dressing on the side for people to dress their own salad.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Orange Lavender Provence Chicken

For some reason the scents of Provence have been on my mind. Maybe it is all the gardening (the lavender is doing great) or the beautiful sunny and warm weather that has allowed us to spend time outside just lazing around out on the front porch or in a nearby park, but last week I just was thinking about it. (Could also be some recent re-read "quickie" books - Year in Provence, etc... but anyway...)

So - I had this chicken and it was gorgeous outside - we also had some great clementines and a few lemons that looked like they were about to go. Jay, the kids and I were going out for the day, so I thought it would be lovely to have the scent of orange and lavender with dinner.

Orange Lavender Provence Chicken

1 whole chicken 3-4 lbs -"flattened" (cut out the backbone and make the chicken as flat as possible - or have your butcher do this for you)

Zest of 2 small oranges (I used clementines because that is what I had - any will do)
Juice of 2 small oranges
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 tbsp honey
1-2 sprigs lavender
1 small sprig rosemary
1-2 small sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp herbs du provence (I added this after I thought it needed some more "oomph"
1/4 cup or so of olive oil
kosher salt (about 1-2 tsp) and pepper to taste

Whisk marinade ingredients without olive oil together. Whisk in olive oil. Taste for flavor - sometimes the orange makes it to sweet - so you may want to add some more lemon juice to "brighten" the marinade.

Put chicken in a plastic bag or other container you can fit everything around in. Pour in marinade - squish it around so the chicken is well coated. Seal and put in refrigerator for about 4-5 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (or heat a grill if you are grilling this). Place chicken, including marinade into roasting pan. Roast for about 1 hour or until juices run clear (since it is "flattened" it will cook faster and more evenly.) Serve with green salad tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper


Monday, July 7, 2008

Crunchy Jicama and Apple Salad with Lime Honey Vinagrette

When the weather gets warm, I look for things that are crisp, crunchy and citrusy. Lots of times I make broccoli or cole slaw for side dishes, but sometimes you just want something a bit different.

This apple and jicama salad always hits the spot. Jicama is a root vegetable - sweet like and apple but based in the potato family. You can peel it pretty easily or just cut the skin off and then slice it into matchstick shapes (julienne as it were). It is very crunchy and delicious alone. This salad plays on the sweet/citrus side by including green apples as well...
I also toss in a bit of chile powder to the vinagrette to give it a slight "kick" - although be careful not to "slip" and accidentally drop the container of chile powder into the bowl where you are mixing the vinagrette... you may have to start over. (Not that I have any experience with this...)

By the way, the key to this salad is keeping everything about the same thickness - it is supposed to resemble a "slaw" so shredded or thin slices of everything.

Jicama and Apple Salad with Honey Lime Vinagrette

1 medium jicama - peeled and cut into matchsticks (julienne)
2-3 carrots - grated or cut into matchsticks
1 small green or red apple - quartered and sliced very thinly.
2 celery stalks - chopped thinly
1/2 napa cabbage - shredded

Vinagrette (Do this to taste and increase/decrease based on the amount of veggies you have shredded/sliced)
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
3-4 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
2-3 Tbsp Honey
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp of chile powder
pepper to taste

1. Make vinagrette in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Mix together all ingredients except canola oil, salt and pepper. Whisk in canola oil slowly to "emulsify" the vinagrette (just a fancy word for whisk whisk whisk until everything is well mixed...) Add salt and pepper to taste. Increase chile powder if desired.

2. Toss shredded veggies with vinagrette. Serve.

(Note: This will stay really crisp for about 1 day or so... but I usually make this the same day I am serving it. You can get everything ready the day before - keep all the veggies separate in the fridge - and the vinagrette separate as well - then mix together before serving.)

This would also be really terrific tossed with some sliced almonds on top and some fresh parsley/cilantro.


Mary Mary Quite Contrary How Does Your Garden Grow?

We did it!

Yes my friends, our vegetable garden has actually produced vegetables. (I am not going to delve into the pesky rabbit that completely stripped our green bean plants of the green beans...that will be the next post)

But look at the beautiful snap peas that are growing - and pattypan squash.

The snap peas are delicious right off the vine and I am going to have J do a bit of harvesting so we can munch on them with dinner. I am tempted to take the very delicate squash blossoms (only a few, since I want to see the pattypans) and stuff them with some goat cheese, dip them in a bit of egg and flour (very light) and fry them up!

The carrots aren't ready to be harvested yet, but seem to be doing well, as are our newly planted eggplant and tomatoes...

Very exciting! Victory garden here we come!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer and Pasta

Well, summer is officially here! And, after a wonderful trip to see my parents (lots of time in the pool for the kids) we are back home and into the swing of things. So, of course, that means lots of cooking.

But when it gets really hot, I don't want to spend lots of time over the stove. However, I also don't want to resort to sandwiches or waffles every night.

Tonight I did one of my really simple dishes - a go to dish that is quick and easy - and uses only 1 pot.

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 pinch of salt
Ground pepper
Fresh parsley/other herbs if you have them and your kids don't object (Minced)

1. Boil the water for the pasta - salt the water generously with kosher salt once it is boiling and right before you cook the pasta.
2. Once the pasta is finished, pour the pasta and water into a colander and put aside.
3. Turn the heat to medium low and put the olive oil in the same pot (I use a 4 quart pot most of the time for pasta... I know that this is not "technically" correct - but it does work.)
4. Once oil is hot but not burning (it will sizzle as it meets some of the leftover pasta water) add the garlic and quickly saute to flavor the olive oil. Put in the red pepper flakes, salt and ground pepper. Remove from heat.
5. Pour the pasta back into the pot and toss with the sauce. Toss with fresh herbs and serve.

Yum. I also quickly steamed some green beans that J picked out as a a side dish.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer Gazpacho

The fact is that in Chicago there is no shortage of what to do during the summer. And, in my very humble opinion, I can't think of a better city to be in. This weekend there was a ton of things to do - from BluesFest in Grant Park - featuring a bunch of stages and BB King - to the Printers Row Book Fair (Where we were this afternoon with the kids and some friends - looking at books, playing in the kids area and listening to Justin Roberts - all for free - then tearing to a restaurant during a torrential downpour!) - to RibFest in our neighborhood, where there was not only great food - but another kids area with shows on science from the Museum of Science and Industry, fun carnival games, face painting, etc.

So, on these types of weekends, we often opt for the simple in terms of dinner - last night it was soba noodles with teriyaki sauce and a simple green salad with sunflower sprouts and a basic vinagrette. Tonight, frankly, we were all so pooped, and it was so hot out that we opted for waffles and fruit.

That being said, I did take some time while J was mellowing with Dad on the couch watching Star Wars, and A was playing in the kitchen sink, to make a quick gazpacho for the week. Couldn't be easier or more delicious.


2-4 ripe tomatoes (I used hot house tomatoes on the vine) peeled* and diced
1/2 cup diced cucumbers (I used English variety - but any will do)
3/4 cup diced red and orange bell peppers (any type will do, I like these)
1/2 diced onion (I used some vidalias that I had on hand - sweet and flavorful!)
2 finely minced or pressed garlic cloves
2 1/2 cups vegetable juice (I use R Kundsun Very Veggie - tomato juice works too)
1/4 teaspoon worshtechire sauce
black pepper
juice of 1 lime or lemon

1. Mix together all above ingredients. Chill and serve. It is better to do this one day ahead and serve the next day. I take it to work with salad.

For garnish - wedges of lime/lemon and chopped scallions or chives. You could also garnish with some cilantro and sliced avocado - whatever you like.

Also, keep in mind that gazpacho is really versatile. If you want a bit of a kick, throw in 1/4 cup of diced jalapeno, increase the veggies, dice them more finely or more chunky - toss in some fresh parsley, a handful of frozen corn or peas... All would be terrific!

* To peel tomato... Boil some water. Carefully make an "X" about 1/8 inch or so into the bottom of the tomato - enough to pierce the skin and a bit of the tomato itself. Drop the tomato into the boiling water. After about 30 seconds, remove the tomato and drop into cold water. The skin will peel right off.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Grilled Split Chicken

This one is so easy and delicious, I just had to share...

Marinated and Grilled Split Chicken

1 3 lb. chicken
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 3 lemons
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the chicken by "splitting it." Turn the chicken so the breast side is down. Using sharp knife or poultry shears, cut along the back bone on one side, than the other. Remove the backbone. Using your hands, push down on either side of the chicken so it is flat. Tuck the wing and leg under, use the palm of your hand to flatten the joints of the thigh and leg. Salt and pepper to taste and place in a non-reactive dish.

2. Prepare the marinade. (Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Garlic)

3. Put chicken in flat container (casserole, baggie, whatever you have on hand to pour marinade into) and pour marinade over chicken. Turn chicken over a couple of times in marinade so it is well coated. Marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, turning once or twice.

4. Heat grill. When grill is heated, take chicken out of marinade and put on grill, skin side down and grill for about 15 minutes. Turn over, baste with leftover marinade and grill for another 15 minutes. Turn chicken over 1 more time, and grill another 12 minutes or until done. Remove from grill and serve up!

Now, I happen to have a mattone, which is essentially a terracotta weight for cooking chickens. It makes the chickens extra crispy and still keeps everything moist. I did wrap the top of my mattone (you can use a brick too..) in aluminum foil, spray with olive oil, and put this on top of the chicken when I started grilling. Really all this does is weight the chicken down - if you have a brick or mattone, give it a try- if not, just grill away!!!


Of Sticky Rice and Summer Evenings

Admittedly there are times as a working mom that I simply am not in the mood to cook. And, when the weekend comes - and it is beautiful outside - and the kids are playing and we are walking around... sometimes the last thing I want to do is think about what to make for dinner. (Also, we sometimes lose track of time and gets late).

These are the times when living in Chicago is truly wonderful. There are terrific restaurants within walking distance of our house (or a short drive) and because we have always taken our kids out to eat, they know how to behave (for the most part).

Last night was one such night, and we found a great restaurant (yes, it has been there forever - and we only last night went) - called "Sticky Rice". It is just past Irving Park on Western (for those of you that live in Chicago) and not only is it some of the best Thai food I have ever had, the staff was wonderful and really knew how to work with parents with kids. They brought out smaller plates for the kids, along with cups with lids and straws. And, for our oldest, a pair of chopsticks with a rubberband already securely tied around the top.

The kids loved the sticky rice (very flavorful and served in a soft straw steaming basket) and the egg noodles. The staff steamed some fresh veggies for all - and the kids loved the baby corn and carrots that were cut in the shape of small flowers. The hubby and I shared wonderfully smoky and crisp Pad Thai, and we all enjoyed a really flavorful chicken satay - which can often be overcooked, but was just timed perfectly.

All in all - a terrific meal!

A was getting antsy after she ate, so I took her for the short walk home, where we admired the blooming spring flowers and stopped to look at every pebble and bird on the way home (including my daughter sitting on the sidewalk and pointing to it - insisting that "mommy SIT DOWN!")

We all met up on the front porch of our house and enjoyed the beautiful breeze an early shower/bath for the kids and everyone falling asleep quickly on the couch -

A great day all in all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Teriyaki Salmon and Raves by a Five Year Old

Tonight I made a quick dinner of teriyaki salmon, basmati rice and steamed spinach (I had shredded carrots for the kids). Here was J's reaction - "I LOVE Salmon Mommy! This is delicious! Thank you for making such a wonderful dinner for us! I am only going to eat the salmon, rice and carrots - but I LOVE it!"

Yes, it was a little over the top and dramatic - but what do you want - he is five. And drama tends to run in our family!

So what was this terrific salmon? Try this one - it is easy and terrific. Of course, get the best salmon you can. I always buy fresh fish from Whole Foods or a fish market - just is better.

1 lb of salmon (I used 1 side)
1 cup or so of your favorite teriyaki sauce (I use the San-J organic.)

1. Place salmon on tray with high sides, skin side down. Pour teriyaki sauce over so it is covered. Take a piece of saran wrap and tightly cover the salmon. "Marinate" for 30 minutes.

2. While salmon is marinating, preheat oven to 350.

3. Remove saran wrap (a key step...).

4. Put tray with salmon and marinade in oven. Roast for 8-12 minutes depending on thickness, until salmon is flaky.


reheat oven to 350.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Of Whole Wheat Penne and Paper Mache Volcanos

Yes -

I am one of those parents. This past weekend, while it was absolutely gorgeous out and we did TONS of stuff outside.... (big plug here for the David Brooks' Big Bugs sculpture exhibit at the Morton Arboreteum - it is amazing and if it comes to your town - go see it!) J and I also did a project. We made a volcano. Yes, you heard me right - a paper mache volcano.

We made the form and used plaster gauze to cover it - it took about 1 1/2 days to dry, then J painted it brown and red.... Then tonight - we Exploded it!!! Chemistry 101... 1 tsp of baking soda - a bit of food coloring - and 1 Tbsp of vinegar - and Voila! A volcano -

It was a "blast" (no pun intended). J loved it - as did A - and everyone cheered when it spilled over bubbles of colored "lava."

This of course, was after dinner.... Whole Wheat Pasta with Tofu and Spinach Sauce.

Confession here - Since it is technically the beginning of the week, dinner as always ran a bit late. I just can't seem to get it together for dinner the first day of the week. So, I used a jarred Indian Punjabi Spinach Sauce from Trader Joe's as the basis of this meal. A and the hubby both loved the tofu and sauce over the pasta. J (as always) shied away - but was VERY happy to help out with his new chore for which he receives an allowance each week - clearing the table and helping mommy fill the dishwasher!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Tofu and Spinach Sauce

1 jar Indian Punjabi Spinach Sauce (or your favorite veggie based simmering sauce)
1 package firm tofu (I like the Mori-Na Organic Firm)
1 package Whole Wheat Penne
1 tbsp olive oil
Kosher Salt

1. Bring water to a boil for the pasta - salt the water when it is boiling and cook pasta as directed.

2. Cut the tofu into 1 inch or so cubes.

3. Heat saute pan (one with high sides preferably) and the olive oil. Lower heat and gently saute the tofu until it is slightly browned and coated with the olive oil (I just did this to give extra flavor - you can skip this step if you want.)

4. Pour jar of Punjabi sauce into pan. Mix gently with tofu. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until pasta is done.

5. Drain pasta. Pour pasta into pan with sauce and tofu - mix together and serve!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Unethical in Iowa

Dear friends -

While I have not created this blog to comment on politics or world events, I feel it is my duty as a "food" blogger to share with you our Rabbi's recent thoughts on the unethical treatment of workers in a facility that produces kosher meat and chicken. There are hundreds of undocumented workers that are being held after a raid on the facility and there are allegations of mistreatment and abuse of these workers.

I absolutely agree with everything that the Rabbi has to say and for sure I will not be purchasing items produced by this company until this is fully resolved and there are assurances that abuse is not taking place. For those of you that are not aware of what has been happening, I am attaching the comments and article....(this was sent to my e-mail from my synagogue Anshe Emet in Chicago.)

Dear Friends:

I am sure that all of us have been following the terrible events in Postville, Iowa in these past weeks. The sight of hundreds of undocumented workers being held, many separated from their families is difficult to witness. Add to this the allegations reported in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the situation becomes all that more chilling. Because this is taking place in a Kosher meat plant, what is happening in Postville is a poor reflection on the time honored tradition of Kashrut and the Jewish people at large!

The Hekhsher Tzedek Commission, of which I am proud to serve as national co-chair, in an effort to ensure that Kosher products are produced in an ethical way, has spearheaded an active response. This statement is going out to the entire Conservative Movement. The time is long overdue for us to make our voices heard. I hope that you will participate in this effort.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Michael S. Siegel

Deuteronomy 24:14

A Statement by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly Regarding Rubashkin's Meat Products

New York, NY (May 22, 2008) - In light of continuing disturbing allegations of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors Plant in Postville, Iowa, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly is united in calling for a thorough evaluation by kosher consumers of the appropriateness of purchasing and consuming meat products produced by the Rubashkin's label.

Rubashkin's produces kosher meat primarily under the Aaron and David label at the Agriprocessors facility. It is a major producer of kosher meat and poultry in the United States. The allegations about the terrible treatment of workers employed by Rubashkin's has shocked and appalled members of the Conservative Movement as well as all people of conscience. As Kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting human suffering.

The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will immediately release an advisory to its members and constituents to evaluate the appropriateness of consuming Rubashkin products until the current situation is addressed. This advisory extends not only to products purchased on the retail level but to meat and poultry consumed in restaurants and at private functions, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.

As the month of Sivan approaches, Jews throughout the world are mindful of the Torah's message of the power of Kedushah, holiness as it applies to all aspects of our lives including the ethics of worker treatment and food production. It is hoped that Conservative synagogues, schools and summer camps engage in a study of this important topic in honor of the festival of Shavuot - which begins on the sixth day of Sivan -- which commemorates the giving of the Torah.

A valuable source for such study is the paper written by Rabbi Avraham Reisner, entitled Hekhsher Tzedek Al Pi Din. This paper is a companion to the Hekhsher Tzedek Policy Statement and Working Guidelines. The paper is available on the websites of the Rabbinical Assembly ( and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism ( By releasing this advisory, the Conservative Movement endorses the vision and guidance of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. Hekhsher Tzedek is an initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue that seeks to create an ethical certification process for kosher food. Through its work, Hekhsher Tzedek seeks to strengthen the bond between Halakha and Social Justice.

The reports of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant demonstrate the pressing need for the sort of ethical oversight which might be provided by Hekhsher Tzedek.

For further information about the advisory being released by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly, or to request an interview with any member of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission, the Rabbinical Assembly or United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism please call Shira Dicker at 212.663.4643 or by email at or call Steve Rabinowitz at 202.265.3000 or

Monday, May 19, 2008

$4.45 a gallon and soba noodles


Yes - that is right folks. On the way home with the kids in the car - I passed a gas station that was $4.45 per gallon for REGULAR!!!!

Wonderful to live in Chicago with the highest gas prices in the country.

So, needless to say, we are not going out to eat much. Which brings me to (what else) - dinner.

Mondays are always hectic for some reason - I can't seem to get it together enough to make anything remotely complicated. And, most often, Monday becomes pizza night. (J LOVES the Trader Joe's cheese pizzas. They are terrific - pretty low in calories - all organic - and they taste great - and are fast).

Tonight, however, I decided to do something slight different than the usual Monday night quick fix. So- I went for Soba Noodles (aka chocolate noodles to the kids) tossed with a couple of tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, steamed green beans and for Jay and me - some tilapia roasted at 450 with mustard and parmesan on top. The kids didn't want the tilipia, which is fine. They did, however, love those Soba noodles with teriyaki sauce. A definite do again (who can argue with buckwheat as healthy?) and good to know that we can venture into sushi with a fall back position.

Of course, in the 15 minutes it took me to prepare this, the kids had already had a slice of cheese each and some fruit... but such is the life of the working mom!

Have a great evening!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Garden and a Grilled Salad

Well, we did it!

J and I have planted our vegetable garden. Only time will tell how well it turns out, but I will let you all know!

So - onto dinner. I make lots of salad. Sometimes the kids eat it - J likes raw veggies - A only eats fruit and protein. Nary a green vegetable has passed her lips since she was able to fend for herself at the table. She loves all things dairy (as do most kids) and will eat lots and lots on any given day.

I am happy to say that J, while rejecting anything that "looks" like it might have sauce, is pretty open to veggies and fruit (of course). And, both kids love to stand in the kitchen while I am prepping fruit and ask for it as I go! (I cut everything up and put it into containers when I get home - easier this way - and more likely that we will eat it!)

Anyway - back to the salad...

I have been making this for years. IT seems odd to grill lettuce, but let me tell you - it is terrific! The first time I made it for a crowd, they all thought I was crazy. Once they had it - they asked for more - and it is Jay's favorite way to have salad.

Very easy to do - goes with everything - and you can throw in any type of grilled veggie as well.

Basic recipe for grilled salad:

1 head romaine or green lettuce
1 head radicchio
1-2 heads belgian endive
2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat grill. (You can use an indoor grill pan too...)

2. Cut lettuces lengthwise keeping the stem/core in tact so the lettuce doesn't fall apart. (I usually half the romaine/green lettuce/endive and quarter the radiccio.

3. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper

4. Place lettuces on grill and heat about 2-3 minutes per side. You are looking for some wilting and some nice grill marks. I usually let the radicchio go a bit longer, since it is thicker than the others. It is also nice if there is a bit of charring on the thin ends.

5. Remove from grill. Chop roughly and toss with balsamic vinegar a bit more olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Serve warm!

Tonight I didn't have any endive, but I did have some zucchini, scallions and bell peppers. So I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, cut the bottom of the scallions and quartered the red peppers. Threw those on the grill with the lettuces, chopped everything together - YUM!!!

Have a great week and grill that salad!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Planning to Garden

I have to admit that I have never been all that successful at growing plants indoors.

When we lived in a condo, every year I would go to the garden department and select plants for window boxes. Jay would always ask which plants I was going to sentence to death - and every year I would try like heck to keep them alive. Never worked.

Of course, we did have full southwestern exposure - leading to lots of frying of plants and flowers. The one year I had success, I watered everything once a day. We then went away for 5 days. I came back and yes, all the flowers had died.

But, I always wanted a beautiful garden - especially one for the kitchen - that had great flowers to cut, vegetables to harvest and just a joy to look at!

Since we now have a backyard, I have had much more success in achieving this goal! Last year, J and I selected a bunch of flowers (yellow lilys and some sort of blue something) as well as herbs (of course). I figured we would start small and see how it went. Not only did J love gardening and seeing things grow, but the garden actually grew beautifully!

And, this year, much of what we planted (to my great surprise) has started to come back!

In Chicago, planting before May 15th is generally not suggested since there is a great chance of frost. However, that hasn't stopped J and me from planning our garden! This year I am going all out! We are planting more herbs, some containers for outside that have baby eggplant and cherry tomatoes as well as lettuces for salad, and lots of different kinds of vegetables - chiogga beets, round orange carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans (yellow and green), cucumbers and - for the Fall - pumpkins - the kind that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother made into a carriage! And, we also got some blue morning glories (J's favorite flower) and pink mounding zinnias.

Yes, dear friends, I have gone garden crazy! But, if we are anywhere near the success we achieved last year, it should be a wonderful garden to enjoy through the Fall!

We plan on planting this weekend for Mother's Day - so I will let you know how it goes! And, possibly, post some pictures for everyone to see!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It is May!

Yes! I am back!

After a crazy Passover (with some incredibly delicious eating and beautiful weather) I am back. I also just finished a huge grant, so hopefully will have some more time to dedicate to this blog!

Anyway- because last week was Passover, and we do not eat out at all during the week, I did lots of cooking (and yes, there was also lots and lots of matzo and Temptee cream cheese.) We had quite a number of friends over Friday night for dinner - and everything was delicious.

One of the interesting things about Passover is that for Ashkenazi Jews (those of Eastern European descent mostly) there is no "kitneot" or legumes - no rice, beans, etc... In recent years, a terrific substitute has been used - Quinoa! Yes, it is apparently from a beet, and therefore, allowable during Passover.

I made a wonderful Quinoa dish for Shabbat, and I think it is going to take up permanent residence in my repertoire - I made brisket also, but what folks couldn't stop talking about - or eating for that matter - was the Quinoa. You can find Quinoa in Whole Foods and it is starting to show up in regular aisles. I took it for lunch a few days later - ate it cold - still delicious!

So - here it is:

Red Quinoa with dates, carrots, zucchini and toasted honey almonds

2 cups Red Quinoa (I think this kind is tastier than the other may need to rinse and drain the Quinoa - check the package)
4 cups Water
2 Tbsp chopped dates (pitted, of course) - chop them coursely
2 tbsp olive oil
3 Medium Carrots - diced
2 Medium Zucchini - diced
1 cup Sliced Almonds
1 Tbsp Honey
Kosher Salt

1. Put Quinoa, Water, Chopped Dates and 1 pinch of Kosher Salt in Pot on Stove. Bring to a boil and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

2. While Quinoa is cooking, heat 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in pan and saute carrots and zucchini until just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in pan.

3. In small saute pan, heat rest of olive oil and toast sliced almonds until light brown. Add Honey and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pinch of kosher salt. Continue to toast until golden brown. Set aside.

4. When Quinoa is done, mix together with veggies and almonds. Serve!

FYI - you don't have to use dates (they will lose their brownish color because the quinoa will absorb it - still taste terrific.) Other dried fruits - cranberries, currants, etc. would be terrific in this as would other types of veggies.

Even the kids liked it!

Enjoy -

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chicken and Sausage Bake - Sunday night crazies

Well friends and family - It has been a bit crazy this weekend. I think the lack of sunshine and warm weather is really beginning to take its toll. The kids are getting into more trouble than usual (especially J - who is being particularly terrible - not listening to the point where when he flushed the toilet that was broken and it completely overflowed - right after I told him it was broken and not to touch it- quite a number of privileges are now on hold for a few days...)

Anyway - despite all this - dinner was terrific tonight.

Chicken and Sausage Bake (adapted from Nigella Feasts)

1 Cut up Chicken - I had 2 packages of split breasts and chicken leg quarters which I cut down into smaller parts (2 legs, 2 thighs - 4 pieces of breast cut crosswise...)
4 pieces sausage (I used chicken/turkey Andouille, because that is what I had on hand. Any sausage will do.)

1/2 white onion - chopped roughly
1 yellow onion - chopped roughly
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp (or 2 shakes) worsterchire sauce
1 tbsp dried sage (I crushed about 5-6 dried sage from last year's garden)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
bit of fresh ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Put onions, mustard, worsterchire sauce, sage, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix together to coat onions and combine ingredients.
3. Put chicken parts into mixture and mix together until chicken is well coated. (You could also at this point cover and marinate overnight. I didn't do that.)
4. Dump everything into a baking dish or casserole (I used my handy Le Crueset Dutch Oven - love that thing!!!)
5. Spread out chicken so it is in one layer and put sausages in between the chicken.
6. Put in oven and bake (uncovered) for 1 hour 20 minutes. At about 45 minutes in, open up and turn the sausage.
7. When you take it out of the oven, everything should be nice and carmelized - delicious!. (I served with jasmine rice and a salad)

I didn't do this, because of time, but once you take out all the chicken/onions/etc. there is some chicken fats and bits of onion left on the bottom. You could drain out some of the oil and deglaze the pan with some white wine- the sauce would probably be terrific!

Enjoy! And here's hoping that next week is a MUCH better week for everyone!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The truth of the matter, is that my kids love steak (as does my husband). It is also pretty much a universal truth that there are some days (weeks, months) that we can't get the food onto our toddler's plate fast enough!

Last night's London Broil was terrific - the brown sugar carmelized on the outside, and the soy sauce and spices provided just enough of a punch to make it quite savory. There was absolutely none left - not even a slice for a snack.

I wound up cooking the London Broil in the broiler (ironic, no?) - about 12 minutes per side - then I let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Another universal truth is the absolute peculiar taste preferences of 5 year olds. It should be noted here that my son, before age 4 - ate everything! And I mean everything! We took him with us to a fairly nice french bistro here in Chicago when he was about 7 months. He was sitting on my lap - we ordered pate - he actually grabbed the toast before the waitress could get the plate in front of me - and when he found the part with pate - just couldn't get enough.

Today - at 5 - he just wants everything plain. Plain bagel with cream cheese - plain cheese sandwich - plain pasta (with a liberal sprinkling of parmesan).

Interestingly enough, he will eat whatever I make - as long as it looks "plain" - and we have fun.

So the London Broil was a hit! To go along with it, I put out a platter of cherry tomatoes (his favorite) and steamed carrots 2 ways - plain and tossed with 2 tbsp of honey, a touch of pepper and about 1 tsp of five spice powder to complement the London Broil.

And so the negotiation began... 3 carrots and 1 tomato? No J... 2 tomatoes and 4 carrots.... "How about.... 3 carrots and 1 tomato..." etc.

After he ate his 3 carrots and 1 tomato, I made a "person" out of the spiced carrots and tomato. I ate each "leg", "arm" with great flourish and of course J wanted to do the same. And that is how my 5 year old boy ate about 1 cup of spiced carrots and at least 10 cherry tomatoes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Almost the end of March

Well, it has been a bit crazy at work - and Jay and I were gone last weekend for Purim... more about that weekend another time.... But a quickie recipe before I sign off...

For tomorrow, I plan on making London Broil (I had taken it out for dinner - but Jay had the kids and didn't "know" how to make London Broil)... here is the marinade you can use overnight, then when you are ready to make the LB, take out of the marinade and either throw on the grill for about 8-10 minutes per side (depending on thickness and how well you like your meat) - or under the broiler...YUM!

Basic marinated London Broil #1
3-5 lb London Broil
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp five spice blend (I used one that had different kinds of pepper and allspice)
pinch of hot pepper (just for a bit o' kick)

1. Mix all marinade ingredients in bowl or plastic bag (I tend to just throw everything in a plastic bag, smoosh it together, then put the meat in and push the air out, then seal the bag.)

2. Put meat in marinade overnight.

3. Grill or broil

Note: there is no salt because I use regular soy sauce, which has quite a bit of salt in it already. Taste the marinade before putting the meat in to adjust spices. Also, you can leave the LB in for an additional day if you don't have time to make it, but I have found that 1-2 days max is best.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Here is a tried and true Hamentaschen recipe - Purim is coming soon, so we will definitely be making these...

3/4 Cups Sugar
6 Cups Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
3/4 Cups Oil
3/4 Cup Honey
1 Tablespoon Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Ext.
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Ext.
3 Eggs

Gently combine wet and dry mixtures.
Put flour on counter and roll out dough, not too thin.
Punch out circles using cups or glasses.
Fill center of circle with fruit pie filling (Solo brand, recipe used about 2 cans, cherry, apricot, poppy, almond, etc) .
Pinch three corners of the circle to create triangle-shaped cookies.
Bake on 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes
on ungreased cookie sheet.

Easy Easy Easy Dinner

Well, as we are preparing for Passover we are busy trying to use up everything in the pantry and freezer.

Generally speaking I try and think about what I will make for dinner the night before so I can pull something from the freezer if I need to....

Monday night I had pulled out some chicken legs/thighs - but then remembered that we were going to see Othello Tuesday night, so the chicken would have to wait... And of course Wednesday got really crazy. But, here is a great tasting crispy chicken recipe.

Roasted chicken parts (I used legs and thighs... breasts may cook a bit faster).

4 chicken leg/thigh quarters
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1-2 tsp italian seasoning
pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Put chicken on roasting sheet/tray covered with aluminum foil (easier to clean up this way).
3. Brush some of the olive oil (or Pam, whatever...) onto the foil so the chicken doesn't stick.
4. Place chicken skin side down on the foil and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and salt/pepper. (don't forget to "crush" up the seasoning in your hand to release the aroma... or something like that. This is what my dad always does, so I do it too.)
5. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Turn chicken over skin side up. Bake for another 20 minutes until cooked through and skin is golden brown.
7. Enjoy!

If you are wondering what I served with the chicken, I had some leftover grapes (you know - those 20 or so loose ones in the bottom of the bag...), chopped up some apples and fennel and tossed it with some red wine vinegar, a bit of honey and olive oil - I then added about 1 cup of spinach (because I like it!). The kids ate the apples/fennel and grapes - Jay and I ate the rest...


Monday, March 10, 2008

Wine and Butter Poached Salmon - Sunday Night

Well everyone, I am back to cooking on a regular basis (although Saturday night J had a "playdate" that included dinner - pizza of course!).

But more to the point, there will be lots of recipes coming up as Jay and I try to empty our freezer and pantry before Passover.

Usually there is a leftover bottle of Kosher for Passover ketchup that we haven't quite finished - matzo meal, etc. that we need to get rid of. Last year, Jay decided to purchase 300 tortillas from Costco "because it was a good price" - 3 weeks before the holiday.

Belive it or not - he actually ate all of those tortillas (although I think he threw out some too in the end.)

Anyway, back to last night's dinner. I was in the mood for Salmon, and since my husband will only eat fish if it tastes like chicken, I often just roast the fish. But, I tried something new and he loved it! I also threw together a quick zucchini and pepper ratatoullie, some jasmine rice - Yum!

Wine and Butter Poached Salmon

2 center cut filets of salmon (I used wild caught Sockeye)
1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine (I used a wine that was a combo of sauvignon and chardonney grapes)
2 tsp dried/crushed fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf, marjoram (I just took a bit of each and crushed it together - you could also use Herbes de Provence - anything that goes well with fish)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (best you can buy) plus 2 thin slices
1 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

1. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in pan
2. Put salmon skin side down in oil - sprinkle 1 tsp of herbs on top of each filet, along with a bit of salt and pepper, and remaining olive oil.
3. Cook approx. 2-3 minutes and flip filets. - sprinkle with remaining herbs, salt and pepper
4. Cover pan tightly for about 4-5 minutes.
5. Remove cover, add wine and 1 tbsp butter. Continue to cook until sauce reduces and salmon is just done (about 5 minutes or so, depending on thickness of filets). Taste sauce and add salt/pepper if necessary.
6. Remove from pan and plate - put one thin slice of butter on each filet and spoon some of the sauce on top of the filets so it melts the butter.
7. Enjoy!

Zucchini, Pepper and Red Onion "Ratatoulie" (Developed when I found some "old" zucchini and one orange pepper that J made me buy because he liked the color in the cooling bin while looking for an apple)

3 small zucchini
1 orange pepper (or red, yellow - I don't particularly like green pepper)
1/2 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice all the veggies into about 1/4 inch dice - so they are about the same size.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add in the red onion.
3. Cook until translucent and browning a bit - add some salt and pepper then the peppers and cook until starting to brown.
4. Add the zucchini and cook until zucchini is still "al dente" - but cooked through.
5. Check for seasoning and serve!

Happy eating everyone!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I am Back!

Okay -

Dad is complaining that he doesn't have any new recipes.... I haven't been cooking too much since we have been doing lots of out of the house stuff - and J's birthday was last week.

But, I am finally back in the groove, and cooking...

So - last night...

Chicken Paillard (essentially chicken breasts that have been boned/split/pounded thin then quickly grilled)

Spinach, Strawberry and Fennel Salad

Green Beans....

The Chicken is very easy to do - and this is a quick way to cook boneless/skinless breasts.

1. Take boneless skinless breasts and "split" them so they lie flat - (essentially the non-smooth side - slide your knife gently through the center - or use your fingers - and "open" the chicken breast...)

2. Pound them thin - about 1/4 inch thick - salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat a grill pan with a bit of olive oil.

4. Place chicken breasts onto heated grill pan - about 3-4 minutes per side - they should cook really quickly, so watch them...

5. Sprinkle a bit of chopped fresh thyme leaves on top and serve!

Spinach/Strawberry and Fennel Salad

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, trimmed and washed
1 pint of strawberries - hulled and sliced
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup green beans trimmed
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp good olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Blanch the green beans in some boiling water. (Boil the water - throw the green beans in for a few minutes until they are bright green - them remove them from the water, drain) Put them on the side.

2. Wash and slice the strawberries into 1/4 inch slices.

3. Trim the fennel and slice thinly - you can do this on a mandoline or by hand.

4. Put the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper in the bottom of a bowl and whisk together.

5. Put the strawberries into the dressing and toss a bit to get the strawberries to release some of their juices.

6. Throw the rest of the veggies in with the salad dressing and strawberries - toss gently and serve!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday again

Well, my grant is finally in to the federal government and over the weekend things began to get back to normal. (I am not going to comment on the multiple incredible horrific news stories... NIU - politics - etc. Anyone who reads this blog knows where I stand - and I am immersed in enough stuff with my job that I don't need to go there...)

Anyway - the kids are still fighting off some colds - but that doesn't stop them from eating!!!

So - tonight - as I was coming home (and after shopping lots yesterday for all assortment of things to cook...) I thought about what to make for dinner. Last night I made a fantastic vegetable stew with spaghetti (even my oldest ate the spaghetti from the pot - VICTORY!!!!) I will post that recipe another time.

Tonight - I wanted some additional protein - i.e. Chicken. and I had a bag of chips that was way past the "can't eat just one stage" - the last bits...

So - here was tonight's dinner - came out terrific by the way -

Potato Crusted Chicken Breasts...

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (pounded - not pounded - whatever...)
1 cup potato chips - yes - the salted kind - Crushed into bits.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 slices of lemon

1. Put the chips and bread crumbs in a bowl
2. Crack the eggs into another bowl and whisk
3. Prepare the chicken - a pinch of salt and pepper on each side (pound flat if you want to)
4. Heat some olive oil in the pan (for these to be crispy - there needs to be enough "fat" to chicken... put in enough to coat the bottom of the pan.) Make sure the oil is hot - but not burning... a bit of the breadcrumbs in the pan should make that sizzle sound when it is ready.
5. Place chicken breasts in egg then in chip mixture... press the chips/crumbs into the chicken breasts. Place immediately in pan. Don't crowd the chicken in the pan - there should be enough room to see the pan between each piece...Also - do NOT move the chicken breasts too much.... 5 minutes on one side - you will see it turning "white" as it cooks.... flip the chicken - about 6 minutes on the other side... Cut into it if you need to check for doneness.
6. Transfer to plate - put lemon slices on top and serve.

Side dishes - rice and some sweet potatoes...

For those that don't remember... rice is always 2 to 1.

1 cup of rice. 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to lowest setting. Cover. Do not open lid. Wait 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Fluff and serve.

Sweet Potatoes - oven pre-heated to 425. Poke potatoes with fork. Put on tray. Roast for 1 hour.

Great meal - Kids loved it - used some leftovers.... certainly better than pre-packaged chicken "fingers" -


Monday, February 11, 2008

And another Monday night

So here I am at Caribou in our old neighborhood working on this grant that is due on Thursday. It is actually going pretty well, but I needed to take a break. And while I really do like sitting in coffee houses sipping my java (well, iced tea right now - but Mango!) sometimes the neighboring conversations are a bit much. Tonight there is a young college girl (I can tell because she is toting a college bag, college notebook, wearing her college's sweatshirt and wearing pajama bottoms) sitting next to me. She had a very long conversation on her cell phone with some friend....

Snippets of the conversation (which was kind of hard to ignore) included why her father expected so much of her - just because he paid for her flights to visit them and her college tuition. And, my personal favorite - how some "friend" on facebook was really old - "but not that old, I suppose... I mean my cousin is 26 and this guy is 22."


Talk about making ME feel aged...

SHEESH!!!! If 22 is "old, but not too old" - what about us poor blokes who are in their late thirties with 2 kids and a great job!!!!!

Well anyway - I always knew I had reached that tipping point when there really was a generation gap when the converstion about favorite movies focused on "American Pie" - and I thought they were talking about Mrs. Callendars.

Onto bigger and better things I suppose - like what I made for dinner last night.

I was really tired of pasta and rice (A also contracted this terrible stomach flu from her older brother so we were in bland city most of the week). At the same time, I didn't want to go too over the top - so chicken was the plan...

Here's what I made:

Simple Grilled Chicken with Olive Oil, Lemon and Tarragon

3 chicken breasts (I pounded them out to make them even - but not too thin - and you don't really need to do this if you don't want to)
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp crushed dried tarragon (I used some that was hanging from our kitchen window - dried from this summer's herb garden)
pinch of salt

1. Put chicken breasts in baggie (I pounded them out in the baggie, so it was just easier this way - less mess...more "sanitary" - whatever...)

2. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon and salt (and pepper - forgot about that).

3. Pour marinade into baggie and smoosh around with chicken breasts. (You will need to "reflatten" the chicken breasts after this - but that isn't too much trouble - do it in the baggie so you don't get things too messy).

4. Heat up a grill pan with a small bit of olive oil.

(Or you could heat up an outside grill - it was 20 below with the windchill in Chicago - so grill pan had to do...)

5. Place chicken breasts on grill pan. Grill about 3-4 minutes on each side depending on thickness.

(This is another reason to pound out - besides releasing some tension and making your youngest daughter giggle to no end as she beats a pan and bowl with a spatual- it does reduce cooking time.)

6. Plate and serve.

I served the chicken with 2 side dishes - very simple saute of spring onions (aka scallions) and brocollini (cooked until crisp/tender in a small amount of olive oil) and a refreshing salad made of shredded green and purple cabbage (about 1/2 head of each) tossed with 2 tbsp of white balsamic vineger and 2 tbsp of olive oil along with a couple of pinches of salt - sort of very lightly "pickled cabbage" thing... Even the big guy (my almost 5 year old) loved it!

Enjoy! It is back to writing for me!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

And at the end of the day.....

So at the end of the day (actually 6:15 in the a.m.) I made my choice - and voted for Hillary. It was not an easy decision (although I pretty much was convinced - as played out in the polls - that Illinois would go for Obama).

But, I do think that she can clean up the mess left by this current administration. And, as my good friend Roni notes, hopefully if Clinton wins the nomination, Obama and his grassroots campaign will rally together around Clinton to organize voters for the Fall.

In the meantime, either way - I think this election is an incredibly powerful indictment of what has happened over the past 8 years under this administration. And while some may think that having 2 candidates in the Democratic primary will "divide" the party - I think it is quite the opposite.

Think about the boundaries that have been broken here - we are choosing (at least for the Democrats) between a woman and an African-American man. Unbelievable. Historic. And both could be outstanding Presidents - albeit different styles. The fact that we even have this choice means that Change is Happening!

The fact is that whoever is the nominee, I will fight tooth and nail for them. And, if egos aside, we get our dream ticket of Obama and Clinton (in either order) - I think that would truly be the path to a whole new world.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Great Salad and Spaghetti

The other day my son was quite ill.... but, on Friday nights, we always celebrate shabbat, so I wanted to make sure we still had something to eat for him. So, of course we had challah, grape juice, etc... but for dinner I made J (almost 5) spaghetti (he didn't want rice - and plain spaghetti works when he isn't feeling well)....

I also made a great roast chicken (my standby for Friday night dinner - and for quick dinners during the week when I get home from work) and salad for hubby and daughter A (18 mos)...

So, here is the recipe for the salad and chicken...

Note to everyone - I don't measure a whole lot when I cook - but I read lots and lots of cookbooks and have specific recipes for certain things, so unless otherwise mentioned - it is to taste. My dad, for instance, likes LOTS of pepper (he is a FABULOUS cook) - me, not so much....

Roast chicken with parsley, lemon, garlic and onion

Chicken (3-4 pounds)
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (about 1/2 bunch - trim off ends of stems)
1 small onion cut in half
1 lemon cut in half
1 whole bulb of garlic cut in half across
1 cup carrots
2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Clean, rinse and pat dry chicken and put in roasting pan breast side up.
3. sprinkle 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste inside chicken, also about 1 Tbsp of olive oil - rub on inside of chicken.
4. Take onion, lemon, garlic and parsley and stuff inside of chicken.
5. Sprinkle top of chicken with remaining salt and pepper and olive oil - rub into chicken together (make sure you get all the parts of the chicken, including under the wings)

** Now, I know there is lots of debate as to whether or not to tie the chicken. I have done it both ways - and I like the fact that it is very "neat" looking when you tie the legs and wings. However, with 2 kids underfoot, I find it easier to simply let things go where they want to. If I am having lots of people over, I will often tie the chicken - or if there is a stuffing inside that I want to serve. Either way you prefer works fine.

6. Scatter carrots around the chicken (you could also add celery, parsnips - whatever - this is what I had on hand on Friday afternoon).
7. Put in oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear (I usually set the timer for 1 hour 15 minutes - check the temp - then determine if it needs more time).

About basting... I sometimes baste - sometimes I don't. Again, when I didn't have kids -this was much easier to do. I have found that because we use a kosher chicken, the method of roasting works pretty well - skin is crisp - and breast is juicy. If you want to baste - please do!

I made a quick gravy from the juices in the pan - after I removed the chicken and the carrots (hubby really likes to eat those) - I simply poured some leftover chicken stock into the pan and stirred with a "slurry" (1 tbsp flour mixed with 1-2 Tbsp water) over the heat of a burner. YUM!

Now - for the salad -


1 bag baby spinach - rinsed in ice water and dried in paper towels
1 bulb fennel - cut in half and sliced thinly
1/2 can chick peas (garbanzos) - rinsed
1 cup (or more if you like) - grape tomatoes

Dressing (I didn't measure this since I make dressing almost every night - but this should be about right... if you like it more acidic - add more lemon juice - if you like it sweeter, add more honey)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste
2 tsp garam masala (indian spice mixture)
2-3 tbsp olive oil.

Mix together lemon, honey, salt, pepper and garam masala in bottom of bowl. Whisk in olive oil to make dressing. Put spinach, chick peas, sliced fennel and tomatoes in bowl and toss gently with dressing.

Also - for those that are wondering - I also made some jasmine rice and grated some lime zest into it before I served it....

Happy eating! And have a great week!

Good evening to all

Since this is my first post, I thought I would start by writing a quick introduction...

I am the proud mom of 2 great kids and wife to a terrific husband (who puts up with an awful lot). I also am very passionate about my work and career - I plan programs and raise money for a large not-for-profit agency that provides healthcare for uninsured and impoverished men, women and children - definitely my calling working in this field....

And, like many people, I love to entertain - cooking for me is more than a way to feed my kids - it is part of creating a warm and inviting home for all the people I love. It is a central part of our life - and there is nothing more satisfying for me than creating wonderful meals for my husband, children and all our friends.

So - with that in mind - I begin my blog... a record of some great recipes - thoughts on issues of the day - and general musings on life as a working mom....