Thursday, September 24, 2009

EVERYTHING'S Better on a Stick. And With Pizza.

Usually when I cook something that's a total flop with the kids, I'll create a "make-up" dinner the next night. So the day after I made a fabulous Indian dinner from scratch for my husband and me that left the kids gagging, I made Pizza Bites and veggies on a stick. Humungous hit!

The Pizza Bites recipe came from one of Henry's cookbooks, so it was easy to make and really, really tasty. You just use premade pie crusts for the pizza dough and fill it with a mixture of pizza sauce, grated cheese, and either meat or veggies. You can make them as wholesome or as bad-for-you as you like! We went halfsies: meat (the half-moon shaped ones) and broccoli (the rectangular ones). Guess which Pizza Bites were more popular.

Veggies on a stick is my way of serving salad without lettuce. Sure, I could have put the chopped veggies in a dish, but where's the fun in that? Just make shish-kabobs out of them and serve with salad dressing on the side. Boom, you're done.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

EVERYTHING is Better in Color

The other night I had to attend a networking meeting for my business, so I left the preparation of the kids' dinner in the hands of my husband, Mike. I'd set him up with what I'd hoped was a home run: chicken breasts, rice pilaf, and kids' choice veg. Well, Mike took these ingredients and ran with them in a totally novel direction. And the kids ate every bite.

You see, Mike subscribes to the school of camouflage. If the food is basically good, he elevates it to a new level to the kids by dumping a crapload of food coloring into it, thereby forestalling any complaints about the food itself. He's done it in the past with oatmeal and yogurt with great results. Sometimes the kids even get to choose the colors!

You've never eaten grilled chicken, rice pilaf, and corn until it's in Technicolor. Witness the following:

He's smilin', ain't he?

This'll get the chicks!

We prefer the McCormick Neon colors for more vivid results. And here's a bonus use for food coloring: they can be used to color the bathwater, and they don't even stain the tub!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Third Helpings?!? YESSSSS!

The other night was Roast Chicken Night, a no-brainer slam-dunk of a meal that I fall back on again and again despite Henry's assertion that he hates chicken. One of the side dishes was Rice and Beans and both kids went back for seconds. Henry even went for thirds. I couldn't believe it. Not only did I sneak in a vegan recipe, but they went for it like a wolf pack on a roast.

Rice and Beans
1 onion, diced
1 T vegetable oil
1 packet Goya Sazón
1 t Goya Adobo
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
1 c white rice
2 c water

In a deep pot, heat the oil, then add the onions and cook until they're translucent. Add the Sazón, Adobo (both of these are Latin all-purpose seasonings found in the International aisle of the supermarket--think "Señora Dash"), and rice. Stir and cook for about a minute, then add the beans and water. Crank up the heat until the water boils, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and leave it alone for 20-25 minutes. When the rice is cooked, mix everything up and serve.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dinner Psychology 101

One of my favorite uses for leftover roasts is hash. But when I tried to get the kids to eat it they just turned their noses up at it. Maybe they didn't like the sound of it: Haaaaaasssssshhhhh. The word itself conjures up images of a mixed up mess, a naughty body noise, a melange of leftovers and nameless flavors forced upon little kids that defies description because it's different every time it's made.

So what's a marketer to do? Put a new spin on it of course.

"Hey, kids, tonight we're having Roast Beef Scramble!"


Originally it was going to be Ham Scramble, but I'd mislabled some meat in the freezer so roast beef it was. Good thing, too, because Henry reaffirmed his hatred of all things ham after nibbling on a bit of it as a before-dinner snack.

In addition to my hash coup, I also got them on board with the green beans using a tip I learned from the new Gastrokid cook book. Instead of just roasting the beans myself, which is waaay different from my usual steaming method and which results in icky (to a kid) brown spots on the beans, I enlisted their help in drying the beans off thoroughly to avoid steaming the beans rather than roasting them. They took turns pouring olive oil on the beans, then Henry swirled them around in the roasting pan to coat them. After Jack administered a quick sprinkling of salt, I popped them in the oven. When Jack balked at eating the beans later at dinner, I reminded him of how much he helped and that he should at least give them a try. He declared them "great."

So, two negatives turned into a positive at one meal. Plus they ate everything up. Score one for Mom!

Roast Beef Scramble
1 onion, diced
6 small red potatoes, diced
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 t garlic powder
2 c cooked roast beef, diced

Heat the oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion and potatoes. Cover the pan so that the potatoes steam. Every once in a while stir everything up, but not too often because you want to build up the brown cooked spots on the potatoes and onions.

When the potatoes are soft, sprinkle the garlic powder over everything, add the beef, and mix well. Keep the pan on the stove until the meat is heated through. Serve with the king's condiment, ketchup.

Roasted Green Beans
1-2 lbs. green beans
olive oil
fresh lime or lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 400°. Trim, wash, and thoroughly dry the green beans. Dump them into a shallow roasting pan or cookie sheet large enough to hold the beans in one layer. Pour enough olive oil over the beans to cover them and include a little extra to keep the beans from sticking to the pan. With your hands, turn the beans over and over until they're coated with oil, then spread them out in a single layer. Sprinkle salt over the beans, then roast for about 18 minutes, checking on them periodically and shaking the pan. They're done when they've started to become slightly brownish. Serve with lemon or lime wedges on the side so that everyone can control how much juice they get. It'd be a pity to ruin all that preparation with somebody complaining about the taste of the lemon/lime juice. Pick your battles.