20 Minute Dinner- Start to Finish

This is one quick chicken dish I’ve come up with for when I’m at a loss for inspiration and time Throw a little Adobo seasoning powder or some Penzy’s Singapore Spice (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, cayenne pepper— all in one!!) on cut up chicken breast pieces, toss them into a hot pan with olive oil, flip around a bit until they’re cooked. If they’re small enough it’s only a matter of minutes.  (Be careful with the Adobo seasoning as it’s very salty and you need only a little.) Add a simple salad, green beans and 3 Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s…dinner in 20 minutes!


The salad contained Romaine lettuce, red cabbage, cucumber, tomato, basil and green bell pepper.  All but the Romaine were from our local CSA.  I used my go-to prepared salad dressing: Briannas French Vinaigrette.  (I’ll post some homemade salad dressing recipes soon, promise.)  The beans, also local, were coooked in rapidly boiling water for 3-4 minutes and cooled in ice bath.  Reheated with butter, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  The grains took a little longer than I thought, but still were simple to prepare. 


I wasn’t stressed out—boys got a nutritious and tasty dinner after a day outside in the hot sun.  I set up the living room table as a dining table and they got to watch a movie.  It’s at most a once-a-week treat. I prefer to eat at the dining room or outside table, but when they’ve been going full-on all day outside, I don’t mind the occasional retreat in front of the TV.

Grilled Duck Breast

One of my favorite foods is duck.  I love it done so many different ways- seared breast, braised leg, confit, you name it.  I saw a D’Artagnan Magret Duck breast at our local store so I picked it up.  It’s fairly expensive, but since it was just the boys and me, I got one to share.  The kids haven’t had it in a while, but I was fairly certain they’d enjoy it.  I looked through several recipes to see how I should prepare it and I noticed many with oranges or Chinese Five Spice, but I didn’t want it done either way.  I remembered once having a confit salad with a cumin scented dressing and loving it, but crème fraiche was the underlying ingredient — I didn’t have any.  Since one of the recipes I glanced at was just sprinkled with 5 Spice before cooking, I figured I’d just sprinkle some ground cumin, plus salt and pepper, on the breast and grill it.  I trimmed some of the fat and scored what I had remaining, then threw it fat side down first.  I don’t like my duck overdone but not totally rare either (I’m more cautious with kids) so it took about 7-8 minutes each side.   

We’d picked up our CSA bin and had a beautiful eggplant (which I forgot to photograph before I cut it) and a large green zucchini (looked like a different type of squash— could have cross-polinated) that I decided to grill as well.   I have never had much success with eggplant with my kids, but I keep trying.  I figure one day they’ll like it. I cut both lengthwise and salted the eggplant first, which helps remove bitterness, then coated with olive oil and pepper.   I got a little bit of rainbow chard this week, so I steamed that as I’ve posted before. 

I also cooked up some cannelinni beans (white kidney beans) I’d soaked earlier in the day.  I boiled them with salt, 2 bay leaves and a Penzey’s Shrimp/Crab Boil Spice Mix (peppercorns, a small piece of dried chili, cloves, mustard seeds and few coriander seeds).  Great flavor! Unfortunately my timing was off and we were sitting down to dinner by the time the beans were soft enough.  I’ve usually been a canned bean girl, so I’ve got more to learn on using dried beans. Since the beans weren’t ready, I used up some brown rice we’d had the other night.  That worked well anyway, since I used up left-overs and my youngest wouldn’t eat a single bean.  

Complete success with the duck.  The boys and I loved it.  We could have eaten another breast, actually.  The cumin was a perfect spice for it.  My youngest asked if he could have the left-overs for snack the next day, but I had to tell him we’d eaten all and there were no left-overs! Eggplant, not much of a success.  Not one enjoyed it (well, I thought it was delicious).  I made my youngest try “just one tiny piece” in order to get dessert and he was not too happy about it.  He ate it and quickly downed some milk.  The chard is usually always a winner (nobody fighting over it, luckily, this time).  And the zucchini was tasted but only a few pieces eaten by my middle son.  Tonight I’ve got to think of something they’ll all enjoy.  Oh yea, I have some magic beans and corn from the CSA.  Now, for lunch alone— sandwich of grilled eggplant and zucchini, sundried tomatoes and mozzarella. 

Babysitter: Hot Dogs for Dinner

I got a babysitter so I could go out for a friend’s birthday.  I figure when the kids really don’t want me to go, it’s time for treats.   So dinner may incorporate stuff we might not eat regularly, but I still try to choose the best of the worst and accompany with healthier side dishes.  And no matter if they’ve finished they’re allowed ice cream for dessert.  Anything to make the babysitter’s job easier and their time with her more fun.

My children, like many other kids, like hotdogs.  But we have them rarely.  I only buy organic nitrate and nitrite-free hot dogs, most likely from Trader Joe’s or Applegate Farms.  As I just posted earlier, contributing factor(s) in meat-associated health problems isn’t the meat itself but the stuff they put in (processed) meats.  Cold cuts laden with sodium, nitrites and nitrates have been linked to cancer and other diseases.  I have stayed away from them for years, before I knew any of that, because they tend to be a migraine trigger.  I boil them then in a pan slightly brown outside to give it the snap. 

So, I made hotdogs with a fairly plain salad, cauliflower and mixed grains and rice.  I steam my cauliflower for a few minutes until a toothpick can just go through easily.  It’s not overcooked and it reduces the granular texture that can put some kids off raw cauliflower. One trick that I got from my mother, is to add a squeeze of lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper to the cauliflower when it’s time to serve.  Lemon and black pepper are great together and they give it a little zing.  My middle son adores cauliflower but we don’t have it very often since it’s my husband’s least favorite vegetable.

The grains were Three Grains Blend  (rice, barley and spelt) from TJ’s.  Chicken stock was used instead of water.  It gives it the umami taste (“The Good Taste” or “5th Taste”) or savoriness that almost everyone enjoys.  You can try to add something that has umami to foods that kids might not otherwise like to hit the right notes in their brain.  MSG is used in Asian cooking just for that purpose.   An umami addition can change something they would find yucky into yummy (like sprinkling some parmesan cheese on top of some broccoli). You can read more about it here.

Anyway, I feel it’s not always necessary to have just junk as a treat. The trick is finding the right ratio that satisfies kids and moms.  I try to make sure mine get what they need while giving in to some of their wants.  Babysitters love happy kids too. 

Grilled Chicken with Indian/Asian Spices

I was browsing through Jamie Oliver’s recipes when I came across a marinated and grilled chicken dish.  I took the idea but adapted it… I do that sometimes, depending on what I have in the house, what I like, and/or what I think might work.  Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.  This time was a big winner.  Love when it happens.  Especially when all three kids and I like it!

Mix together into paste:

  • 1 tsp garam massala
  • 1 tsp  paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (first toast in pan then grind with mortar/pestle)
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 ground garlic
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 Tbsp pureed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Coat boneless, skinless chicken thighs on both sides and let sit in refrigerator for one or more hours.  Grill until done about 5-8 minutes each side depending on thickness, should read about 140F before you take off and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving as it will keep cooking.  (For safety reasons chicken should be cooked to 165F) 

I served it with brown rice (cheated— Trader Joe’s 3 minutes in microwave, baby!), steamed kale and broccoli from our CSA.

Kids really loved it and I found a new dish that I can also cut into small pieces and serve as appetizers at parties.  Woo-hoo!


Colors of Summer

What says summer more than grilled foods, fresh corn and local tomatoes?  My husband cooked the other night- another swelteringly hot and muggy day.  He grilled a ribeye steak that was simply prepared with salt and pepper.  He chooses to grill over hardwood charcoal not gas because he likes the added smokiness of the wood.  We used to get the charcoal from Trader Joe’s but they only sell the briquettes now, which have been treated with something that imparts an unsavory smell.  He grilled some blanched garlic scapes too to go with the meat.  My youngest eats them cut up like little green beans.

Served with that was Bread and Butter corn and tomatoes both fresh from the farm that day.  Since my 6 year old has another couple of loose teeth, we did our corn per usual then sliced the kernels off the cob.  Reheated with butter, salt and pepper. A little of all three can go a long way, and just enough to enhance the corn’s flavors by adding the other taste dimensions.  (As previously mentioned I usually only use sea salt now. We always grind fresh peppercorns because the pre-ground pepper from tins have lost its punch and flavor by the time it reaches the food). 

Red tomato, basil (fresh from our garden), and goat cheese salad is another summer staple.  Though last year it seemed as it was just my husband and I eating it, this year, we can hardly get a bite in before my oldest two are hogging it all for themselves.  My middle son was even dipping his meat and potatoes into the left over dressing after the tomatoes were all gone. 

Arrange sliced tomatoes on a plate, chop basil in small ribbons (chiffonade), top with chunks of goat cheese (we get TJ’s own brand log), sparinglydrizzle with balsamic vinegar (we use a 50 year old one), a good quality olive oil, and ground pepper to top. We usually use French Grey sea salt or Hawaiian Red sea salt, but we’re out.  We used a Himalayan pink (obviously not sea salt) and. But use whatever good quality sea, or mined salt in this case, you have. 

All Blue potatoes we received from our CSA bin.  They look like Peruvian purple potatoes, but I guess since there are thousands of different kinds of potatoes, these are from elsewhere.  Unlike the “magic” purple beans, these are purplish-blue inside and out even after being cooked.  We simply boiled them and served as is.  They were firm and had a lovely sweet and earthy taste.  The kids loved the color. I believe one way to get kids to try foods that might otherwise be seen as healthy (and undesirable) is to add the colorful veggies and not just green ones.  It’s also good for them to get the different colors because they have different nutrients.

Lastly we served green zucchini (courgettes) and yellow summer squash.  Again my middle son wouldn’t touch them last year, but this year he gobbles them up gladly. 


My sons have favorite colors.  When my eldest was 2-3 his favorite was red, then a couple of years later it was green, then turquoise, then “rainbow”, now he’s got several.  My middle son loved “lello” when he was 2-3 then blue, then green, then turquoise and now back to blue.  And my youngest’s favorite was orange and white, then green, now blue.  In such a short period of time their favorite colors have changed.  Well, so have their favorite foods.  They still love certain things but they keep adding foods to their repertoire and all of a sudden (Now kohlrabi is my middle son’s favorite food.  My youngest asked for salmon or “snapping” for dinner two nights ago.  My eldest still loves spaghetti, but sushi and tacos have taken top spot.)  I believe if you understand that kids change their favorites, their tastes, their interests as they grow you will find that given the opportunity they may actually like that food they had no interest in eating previously.  Give them a chance to try it, eventually they may like it… or even love it!

“Here try it” , “ok” — before he asked for more and more…


We went to my friend Amanda’s house to celebrate summer and enjoy food together.  I’d suggested a food and dessert gathering since I write a food blog and she writes a dessert blog.  Unfortunately the day of the potluck I was feeling rather crappy due to a migraine and I didn’t get around to making a tapenade and tomato and basil salad, but luckily we had plenty of food.  Two other families joined us, my migraine medication eventually worked, and it turned out to be a perfect evening.  It looked like the setting in a magazine.  They’d even set up an inflatable water slide for the kids.  And it was really pretty smooth sailing with all 10 of them (ages 3 to 13) for 6 hours!


Our gracious and talented host made more than she should have— watermelon, feta and mint salad, a delicious, soft, yet chewy sourdough no-knead bread with huge sea salt crystals on top, and divine profiteroles for dessert that she blogged about here.  Our friend Holly made prosciutto, melon and mint skewers and potato and green bean salad.  Our other friend Kymm made grilled asparagus, asparagus with prosciutto and a pasta with beans, spinach, tomatoes and garlic.  All yummy.  Don’t remember who provided the corn- oven roasted,  (steamed) in their husks, then shucked and finished on the grill but I do remember how delicious it was and how much the children loved it!

My husband prepared Moroccan style lamb kebabs the day before and I made a cocktail for the grownups!  Yes, this is a blog about kids food but, who makes the food?  Parents.  Who needs a cocktail every now and then? Parents.  So, this is the summer drink I adapted from a recipe I saw in Food Arts by Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe in San Francisco.  I made a “simple” syrup of ginger, pink peppercorns, lime zest, sugar and water. I let it sit for at least 8 hours. Then I poured about 2 oz of syrup over ice (straining the big chunks), splash of cranberry-raspberry juice, 2-3 oz of citrus vodka, and filled rest with San Pellegrino Limonata.  We dubbed it the Blogger’s Lemonade. It was zesty, spicy, lemony but subtle. A mint leaf or two is great added as well, which a few of us did too! 

The lamb was a leg cut into approximately 2 inch pieces.  He made a paste that he covered the pieces with for at least 24 hours before grilling.  The paste:  toasted whole cumin then ground, ground coriander seed, ground allspice, and ground cinnamon.  Mixed them together with chopped shallots, garlic, lemon juice, cilantro, fresh grated ginger, olive oil.   Soak skewers in water so they don’t burn badly when grilling.  He made about 18 skewers with 6 pieces each on them.  Served with yogurt sauce.  Yogurt, garlic, cilantro, mint, lemon juice.  (If you want recipes with actual measurements, please contact me and we’ll figure it out for you!)

When it was time to eat there was much chatter about hotdogs.  Some of the kids were expecting them and some of the parents were considering serving them.  I said that my kids would eat the lamb and we’d been at a birthday party earlier where they had hotdogs, so I’d reather we didn’t have any. Often when things like hotdogs are given as a choice, kids tend to choose them. I got into a discussion with my friend H about a restaurant she loves to take her kids to because there is no children’s menu, no substitutions and the kids actually eat what they’re given.  I said, take that philosophy home with you.    

Well, I must have made enough noise (yea, I tend to do that) and no hotdogs were cooked.  The kids had what we had.  And they sat on a couple of large quilts in the grass, eating away happily while the parents sat under the new pergola, eating, drinking wine, talking, and laughing— and sometimes just glancing over at 10 kids enjoying a summer night.  They had fun with it too—the skewers were sometimes used as spears for the lamb and other foods.  And the kids really ate it.

Later there were s’mores with homemade marshmallows (I have a lot to live up to next time I host) and the profiteroles.  It was late by the time we all left— happy, full and ready to do it again. 

Thanks to Amanda and Jonathan for the photos- damn migraine! Left my camera at home!


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I came up with this recipe because I got some Napa cabbage in our CSA bin, we had mushrooms in our fridge and I remembered once having pork, mushrooms and cabbage sautéed together in an Asian dish. Marinated pork in … Continue reading

Packing A Punch

Amazing what a handful, or even just a teaspoon, of herbs can do to a dish.  Put a tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme with chicken and it adds such a magnificent dimension of flavor.  Whether that chicken is roasting whole or sautéing pieces with cream and wine; mmm…yum.  Throw some cilantro into Asian or Mexican style chow and it can intensify the already fantastic flavors.


I lifted a fairly plain salad to another level by adding chopped mint, parsley, dill and cilantro.  Just a little of each so as not to overpower the other or anything else.  It was so delicious and fresh tasting; so summery. 

One herb that I’ve had wonderful success growing in my garden is basil but unbelievably I’d never made pesto before… someone else has always done it, until now.  We’d gotten some in our CSA bin plus I have some growing outside so I thought I’d give it a try.

I looked up a recipe in The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook and then adapted it for the amount I had on hand and my tastes.  (I had a block of Reggiano Parmesan that I grated from myself but you can find some pre-grated in the cheese section of supermarket or Trader Joe’s.  I can’t recommend enough to not use the canister of powdered Parmesan cheese, it’s not going to give you the quality results.)



In the Cuisinart I chopped together

  • about 5 cups of basil
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • salt & pepper to taste

Once blended to a choppy paste, while Cuisinart was on, I poured into top opening between 1/2- 3/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until its consistency was right.  You don’t want it too oily. 


It was perfect for us.  We had the pesto on Rigatoni pasta. The boys really enjoyed it.  Initially they only wanted plain pasta with butter and salt, until they saw it— they wanted to taste it.  Once they tasted it, they asked for their pasta with it. I had mine with chopped tomatoes, the boys just pesto.  I didn’t put it on too thickly for them, so they could get used to the flavor.  It can be a little intense if it’s heavily sauced. 


Pesto is great with chicken and shrimp; in a grilled vegetable sandwich with fresh mozzarella; even on dollop on top of a grilled rib eye steak. 

Supposedly those herbs are healthy too.  Packed full of nutrients.  I know that they make foods taste great and my kids love those foods. 


© 2010 mykidsreallyeatthis.com

Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad

Tonight we came home fairly late from a day at the lake.  It’s been swelteringly hot lately and the last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner, especially this late.  But the boys had been eating so much pizza lately at birthday parties and 4th of July events, that I just couldn’t not cook.  Plus I had picked up my favorite fish, Red Snapper, today and I wanted to eat it right away; the fresher the better.   We’d gotten our CSA bin on the way home from the beach and inside was another purple kohlrabi, some gorgeous rainbow chard and new potatoes that I knew I would cook up with the Snapper. I put the potatoes on to boil in their jackets, cut up and steamed the chard and tried to figure out the best way to handle the kohlrabi. 

My German father had loved kohlrabi and we had it occasionally when I was a child.  I think he even grew it.  But, I don’t recall liking it very much. My family usually added it to a family favorite stew-like cabbage and beef soup called Eintopf. I ran into a German au pair the other day and I asked her if she ever made kohlrabi.  She did.  She said she usually “cooked” it and served it with Hollandaise.  Hollandaise sauce is not going to happen in my kitchen in the summer unless it’s going over an egg, ham and English muffin for brunch.  And that would normally be served to me, not me cooking it.  Anyway, “How do you normally “cook” it, do you boil it, bake it, roast it…?” She said, “Boil it.”  So I did.  I put them (two bulbs) on to boil with the skin on but cut it in half to speed up the cooking time; it was late, remember?

On to the next step.  Mango Salsa.  The mango wasn’t the best, ripest one ever, but the best the store had to offer.  I defrosted some I had in freezer for smoothies and added it to it, so it ended up just fine.   

Finally got to the Snapper.  I ran my finger tips along the filet and noticed it had a few bones it so I pulled them out using a bone puller (kind of like tweezers). Then I scored the skin with a sharp knife. That way, when you flip over the fish onto its skin side, it won’t curl so much.  In a hot pan with minimal canola oil I put the flesh side down first.  When it was nice and golden brown, I flipped it over and put the pan into the preheated oven (350F).  (It only takes a few more minutes in there until it’s done.)

I could then finish off the potatoes, chard and kohlrabi.  I used the already-melted-from-the-stifling-heat butter and put them with all of them and a little sea salt and pepper.  Less is more or if you find something that works stick with it, I guess.  I took the outer layer of skin off the kohlrabi and cut them into smaller pieces before adding the butter and heating them.

And we were sitting down to eat just over 35 minutes after I started. The kids loved it!  Well, my two eldest loved the kohlrabi and the youngest at first refused to try it and when he did he said, “Yuck.”  I can’t win them all.  My middle son said the kohlrabi tasted like cauliflower, one of his favorite veggies.  All did love the Snapper (although theirs was sans salsa), chard and potatoes.  I’m glad I made it, because I loved it too and my boys tried a new vegetable with fairly good results. 

 © 2010 mykidsreallyeatthis.com

From here or over there

A good friend and neighbor got some local lamb and is now proud to be called a “locavore”.  I am so excited for her; I am always touting the benefits of buying local — environmental, health, supporting local economy.   Anytime you have the opportunity, grab it!

I do realize it can be tough for some people due to location and what’s available.  It made me remember some articles I read from Otago University Magazine and the New York Times about NZ lamb and it’s carbon footprint or foodmiles.  So if you can’t buy any local grass fed lamb, don’t fret, get some NZ lamb.  Same goes with NZ beef, if you can get it in the Northern Hemisphere.  With NZ and Australian (I’m pretty sure they also grass feed their sheep/lamb) lamb available in places like Trader Joe’s and Costco, you too can have grass fed, low carbon footprint, delicious lamb. 

A friend in NZ, where it is winter right now, commented on my seasonal slant of my blog.  The following lamb rack recipe is for any season, but you probably don’t want the oven on in swelteringly hot summer days.

Rack of Lamb

Preheat oven to 400F.  Trim excess fat off bone, leaving some.  Get a pan really hot with a tsp of oil.  With tongs hold the rack (careful not to burn yourself) and sear the outside of the meat on all sides that you can.  You’re not really cooking it, just searing the outside to seal in juices, it should still be cold on inside.  Put in fridge. 

Make breadcrumbs. In Cuisinart blend:

·         approximately 2 cups of bread

·         Tbsp fresh parsley

·         salt and pepper to taste 

·         optional—clove Garlic, Tbsp fresh rosemary and/or parmesan

Chop/mix together and add olive oil through top until consistency is moist enough to hold together when you press them with your fingers. 

Take rack out of refrigerator and spread sides with dijon mustard— enough to that breadcrumbs have something to stick to.  Press crumbs onto rack top and sides.  Cook at 400F for 25 minutes.  Internal temperature should be 125F for med-rare.  Take out and let rest while you finish vegetables, etc.  Cut in between bones.  And scoop any fallen breadcrumbs onto plate- they’re crisp and yummy!

My kids love grabbing the bones and eating them like you would drumsticks. 

© 2010 mykidsreallyeatthis.com