Bangin’ Broccoli: Two Recipes to Try

Broccoli’s Bad Rep

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In my humble opinion, broccoli gets a bad rep.

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Maybe we can blame that on President George H.W. Bush. Maybe it’s because it looks kind of weird.  Whatever.  It’s delicious — and versatile! 

And…. my kids have grown (pun intended) to love it.

My 3yo daughter, whose most recent favorite words are ‘I don’t wanna eat it,’ will devour a plate of broccoli and pretty much any veggie.  But she won’t touch a strawberry. Or a banana. (I know. Freakish.)

If I leave a plate of broccoli and other veggies on our counter with some dip, my kids will snack on it between meals. They’re growing.  They’re hungry.  If it’s there in front of them, and promoted as a ‘snack’, they eat it. (This is why you won’t find a candy dish or cookie jar on my counter.)

But I know that not everyone is as big a fan of the green stuff.  So I thought I’d share two recipes you might like to try to load your kids on the broccoli bandwagon.

Two Recipes to Try

A few nights ago, I thought I’d try something new.  So I grilled broccoli.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  But the real favorite in our house is Broccoli Salad. My kids gobble it up, it’s perfect for potlucks, and I’ve given this recipe out more times than I can count. So let’s start there.  

Broccoli Salad

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This recipe may seem similar to other broccoli salad recipes you’ve seen because I tend to take a bunch of recipes and mix them together to come up with a dish for my family.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbps honey
  • Chopped red onion (to taste)
  • Handful of slivered almonds
  • 6-7 slices of bacon, crumbled (or about a 1/3 cup bacon bits)
  • Handful of raisins
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

How to:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the mayo, vinegar and honey.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Toss to coat with the dressing.

Pretty easy, right?   I served it with grilled boneless pork chops (sprinkled with a little onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning then seared on the grill over high heat and cooked the rest of the way through over low heat) and some grilled mini bell peppers (tossed with olive oil and garlic powder.) 

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Everyone at our table cleaned their plate tonight.  We have a winner!

Grilled Parmesan Broccoli 

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One night, I was planning to grill out and found a couple of bunches of broccoli that needed to be used.  So I stumbled across this recipe for Grilled Broccoli| Taste of Home Recipes.

I followed this recipe pretty closely (except I used my grill pan) so I’m not going to rehash it here.  As in previous posts, I like to send you to the site in order to help out my fellow home chefs and bloggers. 😉

I served it with some grilled chicken, and we all liked it.  It was very good.  photo 4-6But, truth be told, we thought it was a bit too salty because of all of the parmesan cheese.  I think, the next time, I’d still marinade and grill the broccoli, but just toss some shaved parmesan on it AFTER it’s been grilled and is still warm.

So if broccoli isn’t your cup of tea (or your child’s favorite veggie)… try it a new way.  You might find that you (or they!) like it afterall!

Happy eating!

Sharon

I hate it! Wait. No! I love it!

The Case of the Clashing Taste Buds

My kids are quite vocal.  If they like or dislike something, they’ll let you know it.  Loudly.

Luckily, they’re all pretty good eaters. And like most kids, if they don’t like something, they REALLY don’t like it.  So mealtime can get pretty rowdy.

The big problem I face is when the likes-and-dislikes of one of my children clashes with the likes-and-dislikes of another. Take tonight’s meal, for example.

Grilled Salmon, Orzo with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Steamed Green Beans

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There was a point in time when all three of my kids loved salmon.  I swear!  To this day, the favored breakfast in our house is bagels and lox.  But at some point, two of the kids have had a change of heart and refuse to eat salmon for dinner.

I’ve always prepared it the same way — brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with Italian seasoning then baked or grilled.

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My 7yo still loves it.  But my two little ones are adamantly anti-grilled salmon. That hasn’t stopped me from making it.  The Hubs and I love it, and so does our oldest.  I feel like the others will get back to their senses — eventually.  They will.  Right???  (tonight, promises of dessert coerced the 5yo to finish his meal… but the 3yo was unwavering in her refusal.)

I also retested some old waters with tonight’s side dish — the orzo.  Most nights, my 5yo is my most adventurous eater.  But when it comes to orzo he “HATES, HATES, HATES, HATES IT!” (his words, not mine – even though ‘hate’ is officially a bad word around here.)

So tonight, I told him that I know he doesn’t like orzo but that I prepared it a little differently than in the past and asked him to try it.  Spoiler Alert:  He LOVED IT!

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Orzo With Sun Dried Tomatoes (Serves 4)

  • Box of Orzo
  • 3 Tbsp Sun Dried Tomato Bruschetta (store-bought packed in olive oil)
  • Chopped green onions (to taste)
  • handful of shredded parmesan cheese (I used low-fat)
  • salt and pepper

Boil orzo until it’s al dente.  Drain and rise with cold water until it’s cool to the touch.  Toss with the tomatoes, onions, cheese, salt and pepper.  Serve.

The Results:  Everyone liked this dish. Everyone, that is, *except* my 7yo who usually LOVES orzo and has asked me to put orzo salads into his lunch box!!  He didn’t like the sun dried tomatoes!  ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!  How frustrating!  I was so close!  So! Close!

But, for me, the lesson here is to never stop trying to get the kids to try a new dish. Even if they don’t like a specific ingredient, they may like it if it’s prepared differently.  Maybe I’ll do that with the salmon next time.

Until then… happy eatings!

Sharon

Trials and Errors in the Vegetarian World

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Confessions of a Carnivore

Here’s the thing: I admire vegetarians and their healthy choices. But as much as I admire my friends who can shun meat, I like meat too much. Specifically, cheeseburgers. Little known fact: my cheeseburger obsession got to such a point one year that I needed to give them up for Lent in a desperate attempt to try to break my habit. (It didn’t work.)

And – I’m not going to lie – I’m a very happy carnivore. Like many of my friends who are also children of the 70s, I was raised on a meat-and-potato kind of diet. Roasts and casseroles were standards in our house – with good reason! They’re delicious; they feed large families; and, they’re great meals for SAHMs like me because the prep work is done in advance and they don’t require a lot of oversight while they cook. Plus, there’s something so-darn-comforting about these hearty, meaty meals.

But in my growing want/need to eat more healthfully, I’m on a kick to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our dinner rotation. And I have discovered I really love to grill..

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers and Portobello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

There were a lot of different elements to this meal, so I thought I’d break it down here:

Grilled Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Talk about a trial: tofu is very new to my family. A few months ago, I thought I’d give it a try as part of our effort to have more vegetarian meals. So, I used it in a stir-fry and the family loved it. That dish has become a new staple in our house.

But tonight, since it was 90 degrees here, I thought it would be fun to try marinating and grilling the tofu.

In the trial category, I get an A.  In the error category, I think I’d get a B.

For the marinade, I mixed what I could find in my cabinet:

  •  some soy sauce
  • honey
  • minced garlic
  • black pepper
  • toasted sesame oil

I cut the tofu in half lengthwise and put the now 1/2 inch thick tofu into the marinade to sit for an hour.

I was off to a good start and then…. the tofu started breaking apart. And crumbling. So when I put it in the grill pan (which I pre-sprayed with grilling spray), it fell through the holes and burned while the bigger pieces didn’t get that crispy coat I was hoping for.

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Tofu remnants on grill

Tofu remnants on grill

Fail.

The Hubs and 2/3 of the kids liked the tofu and ate it.  I think it was the marinade flavors they liked, because they all liked the taste, but didn’t care for the texture. My friend who is a vegetarian tells me this can be fixed based on the type of tofu you use.  It’s all about the firmness and quality.  I, in all honesty, had bought the tofu that was on sale and is sold in a box. Food for thought.

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Caesar Vinaigrette

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This. Was. So. Good.  If you like caesar salad, you will love this.

I saw the look in my husband’s eyes when I told him I was grilling Romaine hearts. He was less-than-enthused.

But once he tried it, he was hooked and asked for me to make this again over the summer.

As for the kids – they loved it, too!!!

Here’s the recipe I followed — VERY easy.

Grilled Peppers and Portabello

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SIMPLE ALERT!

Toss sliced mini bell peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill.

Brush portabellos with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Grill.

Done. Dinner is ready-to-go and we didn’t have a clean plate in site (with the exception of some tofu my younger son just couldn’t bring himself to swallow.)

Then I woke up this morning 2lbs lighter!  Was it the healthier food?  I dunno… but it doesn’t hurt, does it?!  LOL!

Happy eatings!

Sharon

Conflicting Ingredients: When Likes and Dislikes Collide

To say my kids love olives may be the understatement of the year. So much so, that if we told our kids they’d need to leave their friends so we could start an olive farm in Italy, they might go ahead and pack my kitchen for me.

Do you know what else my kids love? Blue cheese! I know it’s a weird thing for three little kids to like, but my husband and I put blue cheese on our steaks and our kids want to be just like us. So they tried it, and — guess what? They like blue cheese!

They also love tomatoes, especially tomatoes that have been chopped and are tossed with olive oil. Or on bagels with lox. Or salsa. Or Gazpacho. (Yep. Gazpacho.)

But, spinach?  Nope. They don’t like spinach. At. All.

So check out this salad I threw together tonight, and sing along with me:  which one of these ingredients doesn’t belong????

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Spinach Salad

  • 1/2 package fresh spinach, torn
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green olives, halved
  • handful of croutons
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Toss the ingredients together. Serve.  ((Does it get easier than that? I don’t think so.))

But — if you’re thinking what I was thinking as I made this salad — the kids don’t like spinach!!  I’m in for a battle!

WRONG!!!  So. Wrong. WOO-HOO!

The kids LOVED this salad! Even my recently-more-persnickity-6yo had a large second helping.

Why? I have no idea. Kids are an enigma, after all. But, if they like 5/6th of the ingredients, shouldn’t they like the salad as a whole?

Apparently so. Not a clean plate in our house.

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Oh… and so you know… I served this with grilled chicken thighs that marinated for 35 minutes in a mixture of 1c. Greek yogurt, juice of 1/2 lime, juice of 1/2 lemon, a sprinkle of garlic salt and a sprinkle of oregano. They turned out just right. Very tender, tasty and not-too-salty. (the Hubs’ words, not mine.)

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Marinating chicken in Greek yogurt and then grilling it may be a new favorite here. Glad I tried it!

Let me know what’s going on in your kitchen. I could use some good ideas on ways to push the taste bud limits!

Happy eatings!

Sharon

Whole Lotta Cookin’ Goin’ On! Three Nights of Dinner…

There’s been a lot of cooking (and eating!) going on in our house.

Blogging? Not so much.

Life caught up with me this weekend, and I got a bit behind in my posts. So I wanted to bring you up-to-date on the meals I’ve made over the past couple of nights.

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Pork Noodle Stir-Fry

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms

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Shrimp & Grits, Steamed Green Beans, Cucumber Salad

  • Tonight: Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on the Cob, Grilled Steak-cut Mushrooms
  • Last night: Shrimp and Grits, Cucumber Salad, Steamed Green Beans
  • Two Nights Ago: Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry (A Leftover Extravaganza)

Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry

Let’s start with two nights ago, when I was out with the kids all day and came home at 4pm with no dinner plan in mind. So I grabbed whatever was in my refrigerator, threw it in my Wok and came up with this concoction: Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry.

Ingredients:

  • The main ingredient was simply the leftovers from when I made Grilled Pork Chops with a Honey Glaze two nights before. Thinly sliced.
  • Whatever veggies I had on hand: frozen sliced green, yellow & red peppers, a can of button mushrooms (drained), baby carrots, snow peas.
  • A jar of Kikoman Stir-Fry sauce
  • Angel Hair Pasta (cooked)
  • Toasted Sesame Oil

Here’s how I threw it together (literally)

  • heat up a little sesame oil in the wok
  • cook chopped carrots over high heat for 3-4 minutes — until cooked just a tad
  • toss in the snow peas and peppers
  • add in 1/2 jar of Kikoman Stir-Fry sauce
  • toss in the cooked Angel Hair Pasta and button mushrooms
  • STIR the entire time
  • It’s all done and ready to serve in about 10 minutes. (including veggie chopping time.)photo-42

Was it a hit? Yes and No. Earlier that day, my kids were at a taste-testing event for our public school system (more on that in a future post) and had eaten some foods that are not part of our usual repertoire. So, by the time our long & busy day was over, the kids were (I think) ready for some chicken nuggets or something more ‘kid-friendly.’ But they still liked this meal… particularly the noodles… and ate their dinners. My husband also really liked this. I’ve made Tofu Stir-Fry this way before with similar success, so I would serve it again.

((A word about the Kikoman Stir-Fry Sauce — I always have this on hand in my pantry because it’s a great way to help use up the veggies that are getting tired in the fridge. But it’s a bit on the salty side. So I water it down as I see fit.))

Shrimp & Grits, Cucumber Salad & Steamed Green Beans

Sifting through my kitchen to find the makings for the Pork Noodle Stir Fry inspired me to try to use up everything in my refrigerator and freezer. That’s when I found the fixin’s for this menu: shrimp in the freezer, grits and diced tomatoes in the pantry.

Trouble is: I’m trying to lose a few L-B’s and Shrimp & Grits isn’t always considered the most low-cal meal. That’s when I found Bobby Dean’s lightened-up version of his mom’s Shrimp and Grits recipe.

Bobby Dean's Lightened-up Shrimp & Grits

Bobby Dean’s Lightened-up Shrimp & Grits

It’s more tomato-based, less cheese. I used turkey bacon instead and omitted the hot sauce. My kids tend to love shrimp dishes, and this was well-received. Even my 6 year old who is less-than-enthusiastic about other recipes for Shrimp and Grits that I’ve tried, ate this with little grumbling.

The steamed green beans — well, that’s all they were.

The Cucumber Salad was the most-favored dish on this menu. My kids all LOVED this.

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

I based mine on this Ellie Krieger recipe. The biggest differences in mine: 1) I didn’t have any red onion, so that was left out, and, 2) I substituted dill for the fresh basil from my herb planter. Oh — and I used regular cucumbers, which I tend to always have on hand in my fridge. Saying my kids loved this is an understatement. If your kids like cucumbers – give it a try. It’s definitely a keeper in our house!

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on the Cob and Grilled Mushrooms

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms

That brings us to — last, but not least — tonight’s super-simple, super-yummy meal. All of the ingredients were on sale at the grocery store today, including the boneless, butterflied leg of lamb. So I just couldn’t resist. Leg of lamb is my absolute favorite meal. And grilling it makes it less messy than it is when you roast it. Not to mention it’s so much better to grill when it’s 82 degrees outside!

All I do for my lamb is:

Leg of Lamb on the Grill

Leg of Lamb on the Grill

  1. spray grill with cooking spray
  2. sprinkle lamb with garlic salt on one side, garlic powder on the other (I find this gives it the garlic and saltiness that I love, without either being too overpowering)
  3. put a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary on top, sort of tucking them into the crevasses of the lamb.
  4. grill on low heat until done.(about 45 min-1 hour)

Yummmmmmmmmm………

The Hubs loves this.

The kiddos love this. My 6yo wanted the leftovers in his lunchbox for tomorrow. He’ll have to arm wrestle my hubby for them.

I love this.

So there you have it — three nights of dinner in one extra-long post.

Sorry for the delay, but you know how it goes. 🙂

Happy eatings!

Sharon

Keep it simple…

Grilled Pork Chops with Honey Glaze and

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Citrus Vinaigrette

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When I worked in TV news, there was a cardinal rule we would adhere to.  KISS:  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The thought — that when you make your show complicated, bad things happen. Live shots crash. Complicated graphic effects freeze on air. Politicians can be identified as crooks accidentally.  It can get ugly.

So, tonight, as on so many nights, I made dinner and remembered the mantra: KISS.  And it was all thanks to my food processor!

Tonight’s meal was 20 minutes: prep to table.

The Main Course:  Grilled Pork Chops With Honey Glaze Recipe – Food.com – 127539 —photo-36

This was as simple as taking 3 minutes to make a glaze, brushing the glaze onto the pork chops and then grilling them. Very, VERY, easy!!!

The Side Dish:  Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette – Alaska from ScratchAlaska from Scratch.  Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Citrus Vinaigrette

The trick to this is using the food processor to shred the brussels sprouts. This was all finished in about 5 minutes!  photo-34

I made a couple of changes to this recipe.. including adding turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.  I also added shredded carrots to the mix.  I also served it with the leftover Yellow Jasmine Rice we had last night.

I was a little skeptical of what would come of this meal, but my family really liked it — especially the brussels sprout slaw.  The Hubs says he prefers when I pan-fry the brussels sprouts, but that he likes these as a way of switching it up.

So, this one is being added into the summer grilling rotation. Because what’s summer without simplicity?

Happy eatings!

Sharon

Color Our World: How the ‘rainbow connection’ helps our mealtime

Quick Tandoori Chicken, Fried Kale, and Yellow Jasmine Rice

I think I may be on to something.

It seems my kids, like me, are visual beings. They tend to like colorful meals. I think this may be why they like sushi so much. When they were really little and learning their colors, I did a one-on-one ‘Special Day with Mommy’ with each of them and took them out for a sushi lunch. We sat at the sushi bar, talked about the different colors we saw, discussed different types of fish and seaweed, and then tried anything my child would pick out.

We’ve done the same thing at the grocery store and at farmer’s markets — walking through the aisles and talking about the colors and shapes of the fruits and vegetables we saw. Sometimes we stop to smell the ripe peaches, knock on a butternut squash, feel the texture of avocados, and count the leaves of artichokes. And then I’ll let them pick a new veggie or fruit to buy and they will help me prepare it at home. In fact, our family’s newfound love of brussels sprouts started this way. The kids saw them at the store, asked me what they were, and we decided to try them. I had never eaten a brussels sprout before and didn’t know how to make them. But we found it was fun to try them together, as a family.

It’s all about our senses. So I tapped into that with tonight’s dinner — Quick Tandoori Chicken, Fried Kale, and Yellow Jasmine Rice.

Quick Tandoori Chicken Thighs, Yellow Jasmine Rice, Fried Kale

The meal is pretty — bright yellow in the rice, rich green in the kale, and the beautiful marks of the grill lining the chicken. And it was DELICIOUS!

Best of all, it was simple!  Honestly!  I know it doesn’t look like it…but this was stovetop to tabletop in 30-minutes!!ust enough time for my 1st grader to get some homework done, my 5yo to practice some reading, and my 3yo to work on some puzzles while I stirred and sauteed.

And even better than that — my kids LOVED this meal! They cleaned their plates and asked for seconds!  My 1st grader is working on using ‘descriptive’ words in his writing assignments at school, so I asked him to use descriptive words to help describe the meal for my blog.  “Yummy.” “Scrumptious.”  “Delicious.” “Colorful.” Those are the words my kids used. (they all got into that game!)

But there’s one things I’d suggest: watch the salt. The Hubs and I felt this meal was a bit high on the sodium levels – but this was my fault. It’s a chronic problem I have since I measure my ingredients with my eyes instead of actual measuring cups and spoons. You’d think I’d learn, but I’m stubborn. Just ask my husband.

I digress.

Here are links to all of the recipes. (the pictures are from here in my kitchen)


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Yellow Jasmine Rice

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I was really proud of the kids for trying this meal.  It was some brand new flavors for us — and it was definitely out of our comfort zone with the heavy Indian influences.

As a reward for being such willing guinea pigs, it was Lindor chocolates all-around for dessert!

Happy eatings, everyone!

So… what to make tomorrow…?

Sharon