panko-crusted chicken with tomato chutney

I often struggle to please everyone at my dinner table.  Let me rephrase that.  Not everyone at my dinner table is always pleased.  But I don’t usually agonize about it.  In the early years of foodie plus two or three, I felt like a short-order cook.  Being overly concerned that my wee ones were getting proper nutrition, I hovered and worried when they didn’t eat enough “good” food.  Now, through necessity and pure exhaustion, what you see is what you get.  If it’s not on the table, you’re not eating it, except perhaps for an apple or banana when someone’s extra hungry.

Although I can’t say this philosophy always makes for a happy table, more often than not, we eat in relative peace without going back and forth from kitchen to table like waiters.  G and I have  concluded (after 11 years of trial and many errors) that serving dinner family style and limiting the choices helps everyone relax and focus a little more on each other through conversation and a  little less on the food (except for the oohs and ahhs of a really delicious dinner – those are always welcome).

But back to the food. I’ve discovered that the food I prepare for my children also can be appealing to adults.  It just takes some planning and creativity.  Here is a perfect illustration of how this works.  Most children love chicken fingers.  I have to say that I cringe when they eat nuggets or strips at fast food joints.  There’s nothing more unappetizing to me than biting into a piece of “chicken” and realizing that it is really a thousand shreds of stuff pressed into the shape of chicken.  Gross.  Thus, we often skip the drive thru’s (except Starbucks—my vitamin on certain days).  I started making our own crispy chicken tenderloins, but something was missing.  While my little foodies were happily dunking the strips in ketchup, my husband and I were not so thrilled.  So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Tomato Relish (doesn’t “chutney” sound better?), I tried and tweaked it until—yum.  Now we can all sit down to a meal that we enjoy without the adults feeling like we’re eating a Happy Meal.

And in case anyone was wondering what to stuff into my stocking, remember these green bags?  I’m finally out of them.  This lettuce was in my refrigerator for 9 days—9 DAYS!—and look how fantastic it looks.  Perfect for a salad with our panko-crusted chicken.

For more helpful tips, check out Works-For-Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Panko-crusted Chicken with Tomato Chutney

inspired by You’ve Got Supper

[printable version]

For the chicken:

  • 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins (if using boneless chicken breasts, slice horizontally then pound them until thin so they cook evenly)
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (find these either with the regular breadcrumbs or in the Asian section of your market)
  • 1–2 tablespoons McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning, depending on desired saltiness
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, divided

For the chutney:

  • 1 14.5-oz can plain diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive tapenade
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (adjust to desired tartness)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2–3 tablespoons olive oil, depending on desired consistency (I like mine on the thick side)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with paper towels.  Line another baking sheet with foil.
  2. Mix together ingredients for the chutney.  Set aside.
  3. In three rimmed plates or pie tins, put the flour, the beaten eggs, and the breadcrumbs mixed with the Montreal Chicken seasoning.
  4. Dredge each tenderloin in flour, pat off the excess flour, then dip into the egg, followed by a roll in the breadcrumbs.  Put on a plate and repeat with the remaining tenderloins.
  5. Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  6. When hot (chicken should sizzle when put in the pan), add as many chicken strips as fit without touching.  Turn when golden, about 3 minutes for each side.  When both sides are golden, remove and drain on the baking sheet with paper towels.  Cook in batches, adding more oil as necessary.  (Make sure to bring the additional oil up to temperature before adding more chicken.  If there are bits that are blackening in the pan, remove them with a strainer spoon.)
  7. Keep chicken hot by transferring to the foil-lined pan and putting in the oven.  Serve chicken warm with the chutney.
  8. Serves 6-8.

frozen chai tea smoothie

I’ve been all about comfort food lately.  The leaves have fallen, and the weather was cold (29 degrees the other night), which in my mind translate into soups, stews, and hot bowls of goodness.  But when it hit 71 degrees here a couple of days ago, this frozen chai tea smoothie recipe was all I could think about.  It was like a mirage that was just out of reach.  I had seen the recipe the week before in a friend’s Rachael Ray magazine but didn’t think I’d be making a frozen smoothie until 2010.  How wrong I was.  Between laying on cushionless lawn furniture (we’d already stored the cushions for the winter) soaking in the sunshine and taking walks with the kids before the impending snow season, I went to the store to make us (mainly me) some of these:


The recipe is perfect as is.  I only added a dallop more of frozen yogurt with a puddle of honey on top for an extra treat.  What really makes this drink is not the tea, but the spices.  There is no better flavor than freshly ground nutmeg.  And the cardamom—yum.  There is no substitute.  I used some that Cyndi brought me from Finland, and I noticed it was originally imported from Guatemala. It’s traveled more than I have.

Enjoy, especially those of you in the still-hot southern states.



Globetrotting cardamom.




For more ideas, click over to Works-For-Me-Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Frozen Chai Tea Smoothie

from Simon Majumdar, author of Eat My Globe

[printable recipe]

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole cloves
  • One 1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 7 bags black tea (I used Twinings English Breakfast)
  • 1 pint low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and ginger over low heat.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and let steep for 5 minutes.  Strain, then let the tea cool for 20 minutes.
  3. Using a blender, combine the tea, frozen yogurt, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Add the ice cubes and blend until smooth.

try this: cuban black beans

Every time I go to Trader Joe’s, I leave wondering what what goodies I should have bought but didn’t.  I’m always trying their new products, but I only go once a month, so I know I’m missing out on something.  So in case you are a curious foodie who happens to live near a TJ’s, here’s one to try.  Cuban Black Beans.  What are they and how do you use them?  I wasn’t sure, but by the time I found out, my whole family had devoured a spontaneous meal that I mistakenly thought would last two nights.

These beans need no other seasoning.  They are spicy but not fiery hot. In addition to being mixed with rice, they would be an excellent side dish with pork or chicken or tucked in a taco or quesadilla.

black beans

blk bean plate

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips, check out We Are THAT Family.

Rice with Steak and Cuban Black Beans

from foodie plus 4

[click for printable recipe]

  • cooked Basmati rice
  • leftover steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow or purple onion, sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and chopped
  • 1 can TJ’s Cuban-Style Black Beans
  • salsa
  • sour cream
  1. Sauté the onions and peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Warm the beans in a pan.
  3. Mix together the rice, beans, steak, and onions and peppers.
  4. Serve on plates with chopped avocado, salsa, and sour cream.

banana crunch muffins


I inadvertently left some of the “crunch” out of these delicious muffins.  As the muffins baked, I was cleaning up the counters and saw the chopped walnuts that I had taken out of the freezer but never added to the batter.  I really love walnuts.  I thought about cramming some by hand into the half-baked muffins, but it wasn’t worth the burns.  Then I imagined using a toothpick to kind of poke the nuts into the center of the muffins, but all I had were colored toothpicks (don’t ever buy these, for so many reasons, but the main one being they bleed into everything, especially white frosting) and I could just picture colored holes speckling the tops.



So I served these semi-crunchy muffins to my arriving friends, apologizing for my forgetfulness.  But as my friends and the empty muffin tins told me, it didn’t matter much.  These little baked treasures have a permanent spot in my recipe box.  And it’s not even because of the crunchy topping; it’s the coconut.  Every person (including the little foodies) said with delighted surprise, “Is there coconut in this?”  Oh, yes.  Coconut and banana.

And walnuts next time.

There are two tips for this recipe: definitely use paper or foil liners so the warm muffins come out in one piece; use a pastry blender to mash the bananas.  For more tips, click over to Work-For-Me-Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Banana Crunch Muffins

from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
  • 1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
  • 1 cup small-diced walnuts
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners.
  3. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend.
  4. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don’t overmix.
  5. Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter.
  6. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.
  7. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

hamburger soup

This soup performed a miracle for our family. This was the first time my middle daughter (a.k.a., the Baker) ate soup, including the chunks of tomatoes and carrots. Hallelujah! I could have paid my neighbor for inviting the kids over impromptu one evening and showing them how to make (and EAT) hamburger soup, vegetables and all.

hamb soup There are no rules for this soup, so it comes out a bit differently each time. I began with the original recipe from my neighbor, but when I got the basic idea down, I just added what veggies I had in the fridge. When I recently made this soup, it was absolutely the best version—probably because of the secret ingredient: leftover gravy. If you’re like I am, you have a moral dilemma when it comes to disposing of extra gravy. How can I throw the essence of a great meal down the drain? I can’t. So I usually end up putting it in soup.

Here are some parameters for our hamburger soup, but please experiment with what works for your family’s tastes.

Hamburger Soup

adapted from foodie neighbor

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 cup each of chopped carrots, onions, celery
  • 1 clove crushed and diced garlic
  • 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes
  • 6 cups good-quality chicken broth (such as Pacific)
  • 1 can beans (I use cannellini)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • leftover gravy (beef or turkey flavored)
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a stock pot, brown the meat. Drain excess grease.
  2. Add the carrots, onions, celery, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until beginning to soften, about 8–10 minutes.
  3. Add the juice from the can of tomatoes; chop and add tomatoes.
  4. Add broth, beans, bay leaves, and gravy. Simmer for 20–25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with crusty bread and a salad (if your little foodies will eat it!).
  6. Serves 6 with a bit leftover.

For more tips, go to Works-For-Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

what’s cooking at the library

Did you know that your local library has cookbooks? I didn’t until my friend Wendy told me that there was half a shelf of Barefoot Contessa books waiting for me. So I went and checked out Barefoot Contessa Family Style and The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and made this:


I have never really liked chicken pot pie. That bottom layer of soggy pie crust and the soupy filling with a few chunks of chewy chicken disappointed me every time my mom served it. Fast forward 30 years to this glorious reinvention of the 1970s classic: Chicken Stew with Biscuits. YUM! The little foodies LOVED this recipe, as did the adults. It certainly isn’t lowfat and it takes some time, but it’s comfort food through and through. Other than not adding parsley to the biscuit dough, we followed the directions exactly, and it turned out perfectly. The most important part of this recipe is using the bone-in chicken breasts. When roasted, the chicken becomes very tender and is flavored by the constant basting of the skin, which you remove after cooking. This fed the six of us twice, with a couple of lunch servings in between.

I can’t wait to get back to the library to see who else is waiting to be checked out. Any suggestions?

For more tips, check out Works-For-Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.







Chicken Stew with Biscuits

from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

NOTE: To make in advance, refrigerate the chicken stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade [I used Pacific brand, which is the best broth I’ve found]
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes [make sure you do this or your carrots will be too hard]
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley [we didn’t add this to the biscuits]
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.
  4. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the chopped onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
  5. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.
  6. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, small whole onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter [or the rim of a glass].
  8. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

the baker returns

All I can say is…she’s back. And with a vengeance—at least in her baking determination.

It took Sweet Melissa’s Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas to lure my baker daughter back into the kitchen. K started her Sweet Melissa journey with these two cheesecakes recipes, and from the results we knew this baking book was a winner. And these waffles just confirm it. Look at this:


These were not your average Eggos. I’ve only had yeast or raised waffles once before, and they are incredibly tender and delicious. These should be made on a standard waffle iron because they do not puff up like Belgian waffles. However, if that’s the only kind of waffle iron you have, don’t let it stop you. And if you are wondering if I fed my children rum for breakfast? Absolutely. The alcohol burns off, and the resulting flavor is delectable. K did a masterful job with the batter the night before, which made it so much easier in the morning. I just helped with the cooking part in the morning. You know, so she could eat while I toiled away. I guess that’s fair.

k headMixing the batter the night before (and using the mixer as a headrest).


Batter the next morning.



Bacon dipped into syrup = salty–sweet perfection.


When my friend gave me this The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, K immediately thumbed through and marked every recipe that she wanted to make.


Look! We only have a few more to go!

For more tips, click over to Works-For-Me-Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas

from Sweet Melissa’s Baking Book

[NOTES: Make the batter the night before. Also, these are best made on a standard waffle iron rather than a Belgian waffle iron. That said, I only have a Belgian waffle iron, and they tasted great but take longer to cook. And please use REAL MAPLE SYRUP if you can.]

For the waffles:

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the brown sugar bananas:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup light rum (I used dark rum)
  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

To make the waffles:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve and activate.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the milk; the butter mixture should be warm but not hot.
  3. Add the butter mixture, salt, sugar, flour, and nutmeg to the yeast mixture. Using a wire whisk, beat until smooth.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  5. When you are ready to cook the waffles, preheat the waffle iron. (Preheat oven to 200°F to keep the waffles warm as you are making them.)
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the baking soda and immediately whisk them into the batter. The batter will be very thin but smooth.
  7. Spray the waffle iron with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Cook the waffles according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To make the bananas:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the brown sugar and salt, and stir over medium heat until melted and bubbling.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the rum, then carefully return the pan to the heat. Be careful when you add the rum and return the pan to the heat. The rum is going to flame up, but don’t worry; it’ll go out momentarily. When the flame is out, continue simmering to burn off the alcohol for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the sliced bananas and stir to coat. Add the maple syrup and bring just to bubbling.
  4. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
  5. Serve the bananas over the waffles. Makes 6 waffles (this recipe made 6 double waffles in my Belgian waffle iron, so that’s 12 individual waffles).

meatloaf cupcakes?

I know. This recipe needs a new name.


Meatloaf is a relatively new meal in our home. Because my experience with meatloaf was back in the 70s and involved a dry, gray slab of tasteless hamburger, I had never made (and rarely ate) it until about three years ago. My friend brought a meal over one night, and it was meatloaf. The kids were excited and I was willing to give it a second chance, mainly because she told me it contained bacon and red wine.

I had a second helping that night. It was delicious, and in my many attempts to recreate her succulent, juicy and flavorful dish, the recipe below is what I’ve settled on. But not exactly in its original loaf form.


Enter the muffin tin. As I was combining the mixture a couple of nights ago, I realized it was late and we were hungry. Anyone who knows meatloaf understands it takes about an hour to cook. My mind weighed the options: microwave the meat, have this tomorrow night and feed them cereal tonight, or find a smaller pan. Then, bing! The muffin tin came to mind. This cut the cooking time in half and made perfect serving sizes for the children (who knew meatloaf could be “so cute”?). While they were cooking, I whipped some Yukon gold potatoes with chicken broth and McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning. Comfort food comes in all sizes.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips, visit We Are THAT Family.

Mini Meatloaf

from foodie plus 4

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork (the meatloaf mix that’s available in stores also works fine)
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (whichever kind you prefer; we used Italian blend)
  • 2 slices bread (use whatever you have; we’ve used up hamburger buns this way)
  • 1/2–3/4 cup milk
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (we used leftover pizza sauce)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Pour milk into shallow dish. Soak bread in milk.
  3. Mix the beef, pork, bacon, onions, and garlic in a large bowl with a fork. Squeeze excess milk from bread, then tear off in pieces and add to the meat. Add wine, ketchup, eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Combine thoroughly with your hands (kids love doing this).
  4. Divide into non-stick muffin tins. Top with a generous spoonful of tomato sauce.
  5. Cook for approximately 25–30 minutes or until center is no longer pink.
  6. Makes 16-18 mini meatloaves (is that a word?).