At the beginning of the year, Rice Kernel and 8 of his kindergarten classmates formed a basketball team in a well-run local kids basketball league. Some of his buddies have a slight understanding of game rules and at least minimal command of the ball, but my dear son has neither. He is as rookie as a rookie gets. And if you think his teammates know what’s going on, well, let’s say they are nothing compared to the competition. Case in point, one teammate, whose Dad played collegiate ball no less, said to her mom after the third game, “I had no idea you could steal the ball away from another team.” And the scores, you ask? I think we lost 8 to 3 last week. A great improvement from 14 to 2 the week before…
Thankfully, Rice Kernel is having tons of fun. And the parents are having even more fun watching these 5- and 6-year olds. So much so, we organized a team practice to get “some” drills and skills in. With cantaloupe “balls” and mini bagel “hoops” on the menu, we were craving something sweet for our early morning breakfast. Lemon poppyseed was unanimous. Modified from a Joy the Baker recipe, these are made with thinned Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a healthy protein boost. You know, after all that running on the court….
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Winter usually demands a few pots of soup or stew in our house. (Even if it is in the mid- to high-60s outside, as it has been this week.)
Cooked in the slow-cooker, this recipe is substantial and perfect for the nights we come home from a full day of school and activities and are in a rush to bathe, eat, and get the kids ready for bed. Perfectly filling and delicious as is, my family prefers the soup with some sweet potatoes or pasta thrown (precooked or thrown into the slow cooker with 10-15 minutes to go), or some crusty bread on the side.
Chicken, Quinoa, and Kale Soup
- 1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (raw)
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 medium onion)
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
- 3 carrot sticks, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup dry quinoa (any color)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, store bought or homemade
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups packed kale, roughly chopped (thick ribs chopped and discarded)
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Add chicken to a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker, then add onions, celery and garlic, and olive oil. Add quinoa and thyme and pour in chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on HIGH 3 1/2 – 4 hours or LOW 7 – 8 hours.
- Remove chicken, let rest 10 minutes then cut or shred into bite size pieces and return to soup. Add kale and lemon juice, then cover and continue to cook on HIGH heat another 15-20 minutes.
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It’s been a few months since I’ve popped my head in. We’ve done a lot of cooking, as usual, but a lot less baking. Turns out, a family must eat meals, but not necessary sweets. Hah! Just kidding. Must eat meals? Yes. Must eat sweets? Also, yes. But for me and FHE that comes in the form of cookies (always of the oatmeal pudding variety these last several months). And for my ever-growing children? That comes in the form of still-uneaten Halloween chocolates and various forms of dried, dehydrated fruit.
Our meals have mostly consisted of the things we enjoy most: various cruciferous greens sauteed in olive oil, salt and pepper served alongside simply prepared proteins (salmon and white fish and chicken are the favorites), which, to my disgust (sorry) often get dipped into Rice Kernel’s favorite condiment: ketchup. Nothing too remarkable to post about, but remarkable enough to keep our family’s tastebuds happy and satiated. Sadly, my children haven’t expressed enough interest (or had enough time, in the case of my older one) to cook with me of late.
A few months ago, though, Rice Kernel’s school had their first-ever bakeoff. I took it as a sign to rope him into the kitchen for some cooking nostalgia, and to start in on the lesson of “trying your best.” What can I say, as a mother these topics are never far from my mind.
Bakeoffs always intrigue me: I read about them in print and I salivate over them when televised. But I rarely have the desire to concoct something new. For one, it takes too much planning! After I convinced Rice Kernel to join me and submit a recipe, we scratched our heads for days. He was stuck on cookie dough. And then brownies. Somehow we settled on cakepops with cookie dough in the center, brownie on the outside, and covered with chocolate. They were a bit of a mess to make. And quite a production. But fun, nonetheless. Rice Kernel formed all the cookie dough balls and I had the messy job of wrapping 2 by 2 inch chunks of brownie around the balls. In the end, we only lasted about 15 balls – more than enough for the judges, thankfully.
The result was deliciously sweet. Chocolatey smooth and creamy, with speckles of crunchy mini chocolate chips. Did I mention they were sweet?
We got a ribbon. Well, everyone did. And Rice Kernel was very proud of himself. Now if only I can find that ribbon……
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This is one of those recipes that’s pretty hit or miss. Don’t get me wrong. It is savory, sweet, tangy, crunchy, meaty, and hits all the right notes. When you’re in the mood for an Americanized take-out Chinese imitation. And only then.
A hit with Rice Kernel, my little girl would have nothing to do with it! Guess I haven’t properly exposed her to Food Court Chinese food yet!
Note: The marinade would fare equally well on extra firm tofu, for a vegetarian option.
Honey-Sesame Baked Chicken
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 3 eggs
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¾ cup honey
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1 t minced garlic
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
- In separate bowls, place cornstarch and slightly beaten eggs. Dip chicken into cornstarch then coat in egg mixture. I have also found that you can put the chicken pieces in a gallon size bag and shake to coat.
- Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook chicken until browned. Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 greased baking dish.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and minced garlic. Pour over chicken and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to coat sauce evenly.
- Optional: garnish with green onions and/or sesame seeds.
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Over the last year or so, I’ve discovered Rice Kernel loves pork. Shredded, fried, grilled, pounded-thin chops and, of course, cured pork products… you name it, my son will eat pork any which way and prefer it to other varieties of meat. Having successfully started off stew season with a rich, earthy beef stew, I laid eyes on this Mexican-inspired, peppery, warm stew. With a mild amount of heat, we added a cup of fresh corn kernels and half a head of roughly chopped cabbage for some vegetables and sweetness. I also added a cup of dark beef to the broth, which fortifies the flavor of the stew.
We served the stew with rice, but I think some cornbread would be even better.
Pork and Tomatillo Stew, recipe from Food & Wine
(Picture courtesy of Rice Kernel himself, minus cabbage, as he requested.)
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