RIGHT AROUND 5PM THINGS GET ROUGH at my house, maybe even 4. There’s too much whining and not nearly enough wine. That’s why I love to make dinner earlier in the day and let it just hang out — or in this case, roast away — until we’re ready. When the cranky hour arrives I can sit with the kids and read a book, watch one of their awesome videos (Veggie Tales, I think you should know we’re in a love/hate relationship right now.) or play games instead of running around the kitchen, sputtering things like, “Yes, I know you need help with those scissors George, just a second.” This is one of our favorite make-earlier dinners, and it’s a Barefoot Contessa makeover. Love, love. [Read more...]
I MADE THESE POT PIES TWICE RECENTLY, once big (for the family) and once small (for each person). The second time I used leftovers from Gwyneth Paltrow’s delicious Rotisserie Style Roast Chicken. Estelle LOVED it. Phoebe was sick. Paul liked them both though he did say that more crust on the bigger version was better. I thought Phoebe would like the flowers and stars on top. What she liked that day was crackers. So… [Read more...]
WE HAD COMPANY OVER CHRISTMAS, including a 3-year old guest from Amsterdam. Phoebe was thrilled to have another “big girl” around but as you may know (and be reminded daily), it’s not easy to guess what will go over at this age. But when in doubt, I say go for comfort food. This recipe is based on Turkey Meatloaf by Ina Garten, naturally. [Read more...]
WE WERE HEADED FOR THE BEACH and needed to bring a dessert for lunch afterward. The requirements were simple enough: must be baked ahead of time and also hold up for an hour in the car. (And if it could not involve a 30-pound Le Creuset baking pan, even better.) There would be six adults, two toddlers and two babies which meant it better be something good. [Read more...]
WE’VE HAD A BREAKTHROUGH in the potato department. Never a fan of them, Phoebe actually said, “I ont aunt tatoes” when I was trying to play up tonight’s dinner—a tough task considering that we were swimming (aka, the most fun activity ever) just before the potato conversation. But potatoes it was. Only I added a couple of her (current) greatest hits and it worked.
The salad was easy. Boil half a pound of new potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes then let cool in a colander. When they’re ready to handle, cut them into bite size pieces, whatever that means for you. (In our house we have a running dispute: my husband says everything is too big, I think it’s hearty.) Add half a cup of pesto, a splash of oil, salt, pepper and the most important ingredient, freshly squeezed lemon. Dice tomatoes, whatever kind looks best at the store (I usually use grape or cherry) and add them at the very end so they don’t splatter everywhere. And always trying to squeeze in an extra shot of green, I added peas.
Now, a note about pesto. People are always saying “it’s SO easy to make your own pesto”, just like it’s SO easy to make your own stock. To this I say, what’s so easy about boiling a bird for 4 hours? Especially when there are delicious versions ready to buy and use immediately? Such is true for pesto. I picked up a fresh jar (usually in the deli section) and went about my business in under 10 seconds. Soon enough I’ll be grinding up baby food for Estelle, I don’t need to start with pine nuts and basil now.
Anyway, the lemon chicken is simple and delicious, thanks to The Barefoot Contessa. Yes, another Ina Garten recipe but here’s the thing: it’s always good when it comes from the East Hampton manse. This is thinly cut chicken breasts, marinated in lemon. As usual, I updated the Contessa’s original Lemon Chicken Skewers recipe to make it a little healthier. (The satay dip included in her recipe, by the way, is excellent.) In this case, I simply reduced the amount of oil and increased the lemon juice. Tonight I used oregano because we’re on vacation and that’s the only herb I had but you could use thyme, parsley, basil or even dill and any one of them would be wonderful. I squeezed the juice from two big lemons, added about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (fresh and yummy right from the Puglia region of Italy where we are staying), salt, pepper and oregano. Basically you’re making a vinaigrette to marinate the chicken. I do this in the afternoon to eat that night (yes, at nap time), but you could do it in the morning, or even the night before. Saute the chicken, grill it, throw it on the BBQ… Just do it over high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
Shockingly, Phoebe ate everything. The chicken (uniformly refused in the recent past), the potatoes (see toddler-speak above) plus the peas and tomatoes but those are perennial favorites so no surprise there. Just relief. Am I the only one who thinks it’s actually tiring to be on vacation?
ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER PLAYGROUP, ANOTHER BAKED GOOD. This time we tried something even more healthy…but it didn’t start that way. Barefoot’s corn muffins promise to be moist and delicious, which is easy to believe when you consider the half pound of butter called for in the original recipe. That won’t work for us so we started experimenting. And this time it worked! [Read more...]
I’VE MADE IT BEFORE BUT THIS TIME, I ADDED A LITTLE MORE OOMPH. By now you know that I love my Barefoot Contessa. But you also might be aware of her delicious yet wildly fattening food, a dilemma for someone who is already 14 pounds heavier than usual, also trying to keep a 17-month old foodie happy and healthy. This is where Ina Garten meets Missy Chase Levine.
You might know Missy as The Sneaky Chef, and if you don’t, you should. She’s such a clever resource for parents trying to pack more veggies, whole grains and other good stuff into foods kids love. Her version of tomato soup includes a puree of white beans and cauliflower, mashed up ahead of time and quietly worked into the soup without any picky tastebuds ever detecting the difference. But since Phoebe actually likes both of these things (for now), I just added them in their regular form. It worked well because soup isn’t so easy for her to eat, what with her limited mastery of spoons and all. The beans and cauliflower chunks made it easier thicker and easier to get onto the spoon and that she did, with gusto. After all, this is one of Barefoot’s best soups.
WE’RE ON AN OATMEAL KICK HERE IN ROME. The temperatures are cooling off and Phoebe has recently discovered dried cranberries which means oatmeal every morning, naturally. We’re just doing the quick oats which cook in one minute…except they don’t. It takes several minutes to boil the water, then another couple to cook the oats. I’m not saying it’s difficult, I’m saying that it’s not that quick. This is because I have a two-foot tall person squawking at me, pointing to her high chair and maniacally eagerly awaiting the grub.
However when the oats are done, they’re boiling hot, literally. The steamy cauldron that is Phoebe’s little oatmeal bowl actually takes longer to cool than it did to cook. We’ve settled on putting an ice cube in the middle and pouring cold milk over the top, which works okay. But there’s still a five-minute blow, blow, blow, “hop?”, “yes it’s hot” routine so, a substitute was in order. And what better place to start than…The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
Once again I’ve done my best to cut down on sugar and fat and add a little more nutrition. But Barefoot is Barefoot, and these are scones. So there is butter, serious butter, in the batter. It’s evened out though, sort of, by using whole wheat flour, oatmeal and raisins–and only one tablespoon of sugar because you get a great kick of sweet flavor by using maple syrup.
The verdict? All smiles here. And no slimy pan to clean out today. Yahoo! And yes, these are going into the freezer for Friday’s playgroup.
OATMEAL RAISIN SCONES
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
The original recipe makes twice as much dough; I halved the ingredients and used a smaller cookie cutter for toddler-sized baked goods. If you want bigger scones–or more scones–just double the recipe.
Makes 24 small scones
- 2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour flour
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1/4 cup cold buttermilk
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to combine the flour, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Keep the butter in the fridge until you’re ready to use (ditto for the buttermilk); once the dry ingredients are blended, add the butter on low speed until it looks worked it but still chunky. You should see pieces of butter about the size of peas. Add the cold buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs to the flour-and-butter mixture. Add the raisins last. Move quickly but mix until just blended. The dough is very sticky.
Dump it out out onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands and pat the dough until its 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a plain cutter (even a drinking glass works) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done. DON’T OVER BAKE these though. Keep an eye on them because my first batch came out much more brown and much less tasty.
The glaze is simple: combine the maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, drizzle each warm scone with a teaspoon of the glaze. While the syrup is still sticky, sprinkle some raw oats on top.
No buttermilk? Use regular milk and add the juice from a quarter of a lemon. Stir gently and let it set up in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Buttermilk is actually a low-fat, high-flavor option so don’t shy away from feeding it to your little ones–or yourself.
THEY’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THEY SOUND, REALLY. And Phoebe loves them. Every morning this week I’d ask, “do you want a muffin?” She’d nod as emphatically as someone can without being hauled off to an institution, start saying “mmm, mmm, mmm” and jamming her finger into her empty plate so hard I thought it might be injured. So, she likes them. [Read more...]
I LOVE THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA. I just do. I always have, I hope I always will. Her recipes are always delicious, they inspire me to try new things and she just seems fun, doesn’t she? With that husky laugh and a button down shirt, there she is making all manner of soups, roasted chicken and decadent desserts from her Hampton’s manse, surrounded by handsome men of a particular persuasion. I love it. The problem with her dishes though, as anyone who has ever seen an episode of her show (or a recipe for that matter) is that they’re usually laden with butter. But not this one. That’s why I made it for Phoebe.
Her recipe on the Food Network website is easy to follow and totally delicious. I used fresh rosemary from my terrace and added cubed pancetta, just for extra flavor. Paul loved it. Phoebe spit both of them out. Otherwise, she ate it all. Really! For her portion, I strained out most of the liquid, drizzled olive oil on top and grated a little fresh Parmesan cheese. In big gulps Phoebe used a spoon, her fingers and would’ve tried chopsticks if she thought she could shovel more of this rosemary goodness in with them. So, hooray!
Think we have a mini-Contessa in the making? Maybe I should just enjoy the soup success before I get ahead of myself. And before Phoebe starts requesting a mini-BMW of her own…