Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Confessions of a Food/Mommy Blogger (wannabe)

Here I am, three weeks into my personal adventure eating challenge (three new recipes/week and one new restaurant/month) and can proudly say, I am meeting the challenge! Here's a recap:

Week 1:
Week 2:
  • Roasted Tomato Linguine
  • 101 "Whaler" Fish Sandwich
  • Asian Slaw
  • El Sombrero Restaurant
What I am finding difficult is finding the time to write about it. How do all those food bloggers and mommy bloggers do it? How do they find time to blog, twitter, attend conferences and events, work a full-time job, and mother little ones? I want in on your secret!

Until then, posts on week 2 are in development. A visual sneak peek...

 Grilled Tomatoes

101 "Whaler" Fish Sandwich

Baby Bok Choy and Apple Slaw

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tribute to Dad: The (Kitchen) Master Blaster


Yup. That's the legendary Stevie Wonder with my folks after dining at the family restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a a big fan of my dad's cooking naturally! My love for food has everything to do with my Dad. As executive chef of my family's restaurant for 40+ years, I have clear images of my dad on the line in the kitchen, testing different sauces, tasting a bit of this and a little of that. He worked tirelessly in the cavernous, often steamy kitchen, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. But I think it was on that one day off, my 'pop' was happiest being the family man, grilling up some meat in the backyard for the family.

So in honor of my dad and all you wonderful dads out there, we threw some meat on the open flame Asian-style with this simple recipe.


Grilled Asian Pork Chops
Adapted from Bon Appetit 

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup black bean garlic sauce
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
4 bone-in pork chops

DIRECTIONS:
1. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk together black bean sauce, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, honey, ginger and scallions in shallow dish. Add pork to marinade; let stand 20 minutes. 


2. Remove pork from marinade. Grill pork until just cooked through and thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 145°F, about 5 minutes per side.

The Good: Easy and quick to prepare. Delicious flavors that went well with pork. The kids loved it (but then again, the boys love all Asian cuisine)

The Bad: Leaves a bit of a mess on the grill. Could cut back on the black bean sauce a bit as it could be salty for some.

Grade: A-. This will be a weeknight staple, especially in the summer!

Friday, June 18, 2010

{Recipe} Mini Frittatas with Spinach and Tomatoes


Today's cooking assignment: Eggs.

Eggs are hit or miss in our family. The kids will sometimes eat them scrambled with lots of cheese and ketchup. They'll run out of the kitchen if I try to serve it to them hard boiled, poached or fried. They'll gladly eat custard of course. I would love for them to enjoy the incredible, edible egg. It's cheap, nutritious and easy to prepare.

So I decided to give Matthew Amster-Burton's recipe for Mini Frittatas from Hungy Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventitious Eater a try. I love this book about a food critic's culinary capers with his daughter. I can relate when he writes, "What's better than breakfast for dinner? (Answer: pizza for breakfast.)" I adapted his recipe to include veggies I thought my kids would eat. I asked my son to choose two vegetables to include in this dish and he picked spinach. He admitted he didn't really like veggies and asked me to pick the second. One out of two ain't bad!


Adapted from Hungry Monkey
Makes 12 mini-frittatas, serves four

INGREDIENTS:
5 oz baby spinach
6 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 oz (1/3 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tsp salt
pepper
1 tbs butter
8-10 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup diced shallots

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper to taste in a Pyrex measuring cup.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots until fragrant and translucent. Add spinach and saute on medium high heat until spinach is heated through (about 5 minutes).


3. Spray a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the spinach and tomato into each cup and top with 2-3 tablespoons of the egg mixture. Each cup will be about 2/3 full. Bake 20-30 minutes. Using a spoon, turn the frittatas out of the pan and serve immediately with toast (and bacon, fruit, etc.)

The Good: Easy to make, great for "little fingers" (I had my son help mix the egg mixture and fill the muffin pan). Great as leftovers and umdaddy loved it. The mini frittatas baked in a muffin tin are a perfect size for kids.

The Bad: My kids did not really like it. The youngest touched it with his tongue and cried whenever a morsel came close to his lips. The five year old eventually ate it, but only after an hour of eating, washing down every bite with some milk.

Grade: B-. I will definitely try making this again, but with different veggies with some fresh herbs and some more seasoning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

{Recipe} Roasted Chickpea Bruschetta


Today's cooking assignment: Legumes

For those of you keeping score, this is my first test recipe in getting my family to try new flavors, ingredients and dishes. My kids do not do legumes. They'll only eat the rice when served Beans and Rice. Baked beans are pushed to the edge of the plate. They like saying "Edamame" more than they like eating them. Hummus? Forget it.

Perhaps I needed a killer recipe that would get my family to sing the praises of this vegetable (and no, it's not a magical fruit as we were led to believe as kids). Who better to turn to for inspiration than Mario Batali and Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans, authors of The Gastrokid Cookbook. They write, "If a restaurant like Babbo is giving this away to each and every diner, that's the first sign that this is an incredibly cheap dish to make. The kids love this. The parents love this. The wallet love this." I had to make this! Get the recipe here - Roasted Chickpea Bruschetta from The Gastrokid Cookbook


The Good: The flavor profile (as they say on Bravo's Top Chef) was amazing. Briny olives, balsamic vinegar complemented the chickpeas very well.

The Bad: Roasting the chickpeas dried them out too much for my taste. Serving them on slices of baguette was somewhat cumbersome as everything kept on rolling right off.

Grade: B. The five year old popped a handful in his mouth and confessed he enjoyed it. I think using quality olives (from Russo's of course!) and roasting minced garlic with the chickpeas for the last few minutes helped enhance the flavors.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Raising the stakes (or steaks)


I love food. And I love how food can bring a family together. I started this blog as a way to chronicle my quest in finding good - no make that great - meals for my family. I didn't want to believe that restaurants with a menu kids could color were our only options when dining out. Nor did I want to 'deceive' my kids by masking good-for-you ingredients in their dish. And I definitely did not want to be the kids' short order cook, serving up typical toddler food they would eat while my hubby and I ate 'grown-up' food. Whether it be from a recipe, pre-packaged or eating out, I wanted an outlet to share the good, bad, and tasty.

 
I am amazed and quite frankly, overwhelmed by the number of bloggers out there. The ones that get my attention, and better yet, lure me back time and again have my utmost admiration. For me, these blogs are an honest and fun peek into a personal experimentation: A mom who is teaching herself and her son the art of cooking in 365 days. An eco-mom teaching her kids to cook healthy. A mom getting her son to eat vegetables. There's The Julie/Julia Project of course.

Since my goal is to raise adventurous eaters, then I too need to be ready for adventure. So I am challenging myself to try *at least* two new recipes a week, test something store-bought, and review one new restaurant (sans kiddie menu) a month. I'd be lying if I told you dinner didn't come from store-bought rotisserie chicken and mac and cheese from a box with a bunny on it now and then. But who wants to read about that? And hopefully after some time, I will have a catalog of great eats that my boys can try out on their own kids.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Dish: Rainy Day Rigatoni with Eggplant


It was a perfect storm - the little one had decided on going on a "pasta only" diet. Fridge was nearly empty with one lone eggplant hanging out in the crisper. Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast. It was time to try Rainy Day Rigatoni.

I came across this dish on one of my favorite websites, www.thekitchn.com. The recipe actually comes from Apron Anxiety, blog from Alyssa Shelasky. I absolutely love her writing style and the site's design is simple yet sophisticated. Thanks kitchn for introducing me to yet another gem.


This dish is very easy to make using ingredients you probably have on hand. I made some modifications to the recipe based on what we had in the house (Penne instead of rigatoni, diced tomatoes v. crushed, oregano instead of basil, red onion and garlic).

The family chowed just as the storm blew through. The look on umdaddy's face told me this was a winner. And just as my son finished the last morsel of eggplant, the sun was shining. And was there a rainbow at the end of our meal? Maybe. I was too busy to notice as I was squirreling away the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

Adapted from Apron Anxiety's Rainy Day Rigatoni
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 large eggplant cut into 1/2” cubes
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons pepper
1 pound penne (I used Barilla's Multi-grain PLUS in an effort to get more nutrients in the kids' diet)
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
grated parmigiano

DIRECTIONS:
 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add onion, garlic and red pepper and sauté until the onion is almost translucent, add the eggplant and one teaspoon of salt and cook for twenty minutes allowing it to get a little brown. Then add tomatoes, wine, sugar, oregano and the remaining salt, cook for 50-60 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft.

 
Cook penne according to package directions. When the pasta is drained, return it to the pasta pot, add a few ladlefuls of sauce, and a dash of olive oil. Ladle into bowls garnished with a dollop of extra sauce and grated Parmesan.

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