Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dinner Tonight

Here is a typical weeknight evening at our house around 5pm:
umdaddy: what's for dinner tonight?
me (nose buried in my computer): Huh? Ummm... there was a new recipe I wanted to try.
umdaddy (looking at the recipe): Did you take out [protein] from the freezer yet? And it says it needs to cook for [many] hours?! (Sigh). I guess I'll whip something up.
me (sheepishly): Thanks.
I try to menu plan and start cooking around 5pm most nights. Really I do. Except lately I've been consumed with work, so much that I barely have time to take a pee. That's when Martha has often come to my rescue with her Dinner Tonight from Everyday Food daily emails.

If you haven't signed up for these daily morsels delivered to your inbox, do it. The recipes are usually simple to make using everyday ingredients (duh - it's called Everyday Food). And the food photography alone will inspire you to plan ahead and put together a dish rather than pop a frozen pizza in the oven (not that there is anything wrong with that... Trader Joe's is my BFF).

Here is a recipe we tried recently that was delicious and pretty easy to make. But I'd be lying to you if I said I did the actual cooking. Filed under Quick Pasta Recipes, this was one of those typical 5pm "what's for dinner" nights. At least I remembered to make sure there was chicken defrosted.

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry
Click here for the recipe

The Good: Takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Great flavors and feels healthy.

The Bad: We used bone-in chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. So there was some added prep time to prep the chicken.

Grade: A-. The boys loved this. I loved this. Great weeknight dinner.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Discovering Fondue

I have never had fondue up until last week. Hard to believe, right? I did not grow up in the 60s when it was in vogue. Nor did I register for a fondue set when it was in vogue again when we got married. My preconception of fondues was of dipping fruit in melted chocolate. When I saw that The Boston Parent Bloggers was hosting an event at The Melting Pot, I jumped at the chance to join fellow bloggers and discover the art of dipping for myself.

With over 140 locations, including three in Massachusetts, The Melting Pot is America's premier fondue restaurant franchise. More than a dozen other fellow parent bloggers were treated to a sampling of cheese and chocolate fondues. Bowls of bubbling cheese and chocolate are heated on induction cooktops - keeping the fondues warm without the worry of anyone burning themselves.

The cheese fondues came with bread, apples, and veggies.

Strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, Rice Krispies Treats, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies were available for dipping in the chocolate goodness.

Everything was pretty tasty and there was more than enough food and dipping to go around. The Melting Pot was the perfect backdrop for a group outing. It is hard to not have a good time when you are with a bunch of funny and smart people, cocktails and oh yeah, melted cheese and chocolate.

Boston Parent Bloggers at The Melting Pot
Boston Parent Bloggers Night Out (photo by Ben Spark

I don't know if our family will be dipping anytime soon. Sure, I think the boys would love to dip stuff in gooey cheese and chocolate. But unless you get the 4-course meal that comes with the Big Night Out, its not easy to get a complete meal without throwing down some serious cash.

I think The Melting Pot is a great night out with friends or a romantic night out (Valentine's Day has gotta be one of their busiest nights), but will probably wait until a special occasion and/or the boys are a bit older before bringing my family there.

I can now say I tried fondue. I even felt I could have been a good judge in last week's quick fire challenge on Top Chef All-Stars. But I still have some ways to go before I *really* know fondue. Until then, I'll stick to dipping strawberries in melted chocolate with my boys for Valentine's Day!

Melting Pot on Urbanspoon

Thanks to The Boston Parent Bloggers for putting the event together and The Melting Pot for providing the fondues and venue!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chinese New Year Recipe: Lion's Head

Serving Lion's Head to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit
Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3rd and is celebrated for 15 days. The holiday was always a joyous and exciting time of year when I was growing up. There was always a big Chinese New Year feast at our family's restaurant. All my aunts, uncles and cousins would come together and dine on whole steamed fish and chicken (representing abundance). Also on the menu was braised Chinese mushrooms, longevity noodles (representing long life) and my dad's famous lobster Cantonese. No one was allowed to speak of anything sad or fight as this was considered bad luck. And the highlight of the day had to have been when the adults handed out red envelopes stuffed with money to all the kids. 

So now as an adult with my own family, I find myself wanting to pass down some of these Chinese New Year traditions, superstitions and all. The house is clean, cleaning out any bad luck. We placed a pair of clementines in each room of our house symbolizing happiness, good fortune and health. Red envelopes are stuffed and ready to hand out to the boys. All that is missing is the big feast. I'm a little behind with menu planning and shopping due to all the friggin' snow we've been getting. But thought I'd share a new recipe we tested this week that was a huge hit and will definitely be part of our family's Chinese New Year tradition.

Lion's Heads with lots of mane (or cabbage)

Lion's Head 
Adapted from Ming Tsai's Simply Ming One-Pot Meals

Note: Chinese dishes have evocative names. The lion's head refers to the meatballs and the cabbage represents the mane. A lion represents strength and the roundness of the meatball represents family, togetherness.

3/4 lb ground pork
3/4 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs minced ginger
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 cup steamed white rice
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small head napa cabbage, cut into thin strips

1. Set up steamer (bamboo steamer or dish elevated above water-filled wok)

make-shift steamer in a wok
2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, onions, garlic, ginger, Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, rice and eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix by hand until combined.

3. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch balls. Place a 3/4 to 1-inch bed of cabbage in the top of the steamer and top with the meatballs. Season with salt and pepper and steam until the meatballs and cabbage are cooked through (10-12 minutes). Transfer the cabbage to a platter , top with the meatballs and serve.

The Good: Super easy to make. No rolling around meatballs in oil.

The Bad: The cabbage cooks down dramatically. Wish there was more cabbage to go around.

Grade: A. The boys could not get enough. Great, quick, healthy weeknight meal.


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