Archive for family friendly meals

Simple, Healthy Chicken with Spicy Asian Slaw


With the holidays in full swing and the associated consumption of baked goods, party food, cocktails and the like overtaking my diet, I was craving a simple, healthy–but of course, delicious– dinner to counter the indulgence of the season.

My sister shared the idea for this recipe with me.  She is an excellent cook and has a strong repertoire of homemade meals, but she makes this in a pinch, using mostly store bought ingredients.  When she described it to me, I was inspired to create a homemade version–though I reserve the right to cheat when I’m short on time.  It worked well as a family dinner (though my finicky son turned up his nose), but it would be great for a summer party or ladies’ lunch.  Don’t feel the need to wear dark glasses when buying the Ramen noodles.  They really do add a lot to the dish and you’re not going to use those nasty MSG-filled flavor packets.

Here’s what I did…

1/2 head cabbage

1/2 bunch broccoli (1 “tree”, stem included)

1 small onion

a 1 inch piece of ginger

3 TBSP rice vinegar

3 TBSP soy sauce

3 TBSP sesame oil

juice of one lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1.  In Cuisinart, shred all vegetables including ginger.

2.  Mix in bowl with remaining ingredients.

3.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Cheater version:  buy 1 bag of broccoli slaw and mix it with 1/2 cup of bottled sesame/soy dressing


1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken cut in thin strips

3 TBSP soy sauce

1 tsp Sriracha or other Asian hot sauce

2 TBSP sesame oil

1 TBSP hoisin sauce

Mix all ingredients, allow chicken to marinate several hours or overnight.

Grill or saute chicken til done.

Cheater version:  use purchased marinade, or buy cooked chicken.

To serve:

Place a bed of slaw in bowl.  Top with chicken.   Crush a packet of ramen noodles and sprinkle over the chicken.


Leftovers the next day:  I sauteed some shrimp in the same marinade, put a scoop of slaw in the bowl, added the fresh shrimp, crumbled the ramen, and voila, dinner again!

Turkey Pot Pie or What to Do with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey Pot Pie.  You can smell it cooking in the oven.  Can’t you…?


Lovely Leftovers…

Leftovers needn’t be lifeless – especially when they are drenched in gravy and then encased in pastry.  Team your Thanksgiving leftovers with flaky pastry and you have all the makings of a turkey pot pie.

Just work with what you’ve got!

When I opened the fridge door two days after Thanksgiving, I found about a pint of turkey gravy, a pile of stuffing, cooked baby carrots, cooked turkey breast and roasted onions.

All I needed to complete my pie was:

  • a large onion
  • 2-3 celery sticks (leftover from a dip)
  • 3 strips of uncooked smoked bacon,
  • ¼ pint cream to enrich the turkey gravy,
  • seasoning
  • and of course a packet of frozen pastry.

To prep the pie filling:

  1. Chop onion and celery finely and dice bacon.  Fry up all three ingredients in a frypan.  Fry bacon until fat turns clear.
  2. Slice baby carrots or dice if using larger carrots and toss into pan
  3. Cube or slice into bite sized pieces your leftover turkey, add to pan together with chopped leftover roasted onions.
  4. Add gravy, cream, and seasoning and keep bubbling for about 10 minutes, stir frequently so that the ingredients do not stick and burn.
  5. Pour pie filling into dish, drape pastry over top.  Don’t forget to make a hole in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape.  Alternatively use a ceramic pie vent, like my beautiful blackbird, to ventilate the pie.  (I bought the one below from the cookshop in Reading Terminal Market.).
  6. Follow ingredients on the pastry pack in terms of cooking time.  The pie filling is already cooked so all you are doing is baking the pastry.

Nope. It’s not the twitter icon. It’s my pie vent.


Serve with your favorite Fall vegetables!

Crumbly, buttery pastry is just the best!

How to Make Pizza

Homemade pizza; it’s easier than you think!

As usual, when the husband travels, kids put in orders for creative meals.  Dad was in San Diego all last week, and pizza was requested.  Given how rarely teens willingly spend time with parents, I was more than willing to bash together some dough and procure a variety of toppings for a homemade pizza night.

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 full-sized pies.  In our case, we made 4 half-sized pies to allow greater topping variety.

2 pkgs pizza yeast (regular yeast can be substituted)
2 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
5 cups flour
2 Tbps olive oil
2 Tbsp corn meal for coating pans (optional)

Pour dough into large mixing bowl.  Add water, sugar and salt.  Let yeast begin to bubble and stir.  Using dough hook attachment, add flour gradually until dough holds together.  Cover with kitchen towel for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.   Punch the dough down (my daughter looved this part!) and you’re ready to go.

Heat oven to 500.

Grab a hunk of dough, and begin stretching it out.  My kids had a ball here:

I baked our pies on pizza stones coated with a dusting of corn meal, but you can also use oiled baking sheets.

Stretch dough to a thin roundish shape (or oval, square, amoebic, trapezoidal….up to you.)  Top as desired.  We enjoyed the following combos:

pesto with fresh mozzarella
marinara, grated mozzarella and pepperoni

marinara and mozzarella; marinara, olives, feta,  onions, and mozzarella.

When topped as desired, bake in lowest rack of oven for about 10 minutes.  Watch it carefully–it’s done when edges are brown and crisp, cheese is completely melted and when you scrape the underside of the pie with a spatula it feels solid, not sticky and doughy.

 Ok, so it’s a bit more work than dialing for delivery, but it really is a lot better.  Claire, who normally eschews pizza, enjoyed the leftovers during a phillyfoodlovers working lunch the following day. 

Assuming you have power, homemade pizza may be a good way to get through Hurricane Sandy. 

How to Make Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

Pulled pork is one of my go-to dishes for a crowd.  It is economical, requires minimal effort, and is popular among kids and adults alike. Having recently served both the traditional barbecue version and Mexican pulled pork, I was ready for some variety. I also wanted to lighten it up a bit; the chunky rolls associated with the Southern sandwiches tend to make me chunky, and the Mexican version with the tortillas, cheese, guacamole, chips, well, you see my dilemma. Lettuce wraps and Asian spices beckoned me, and I heeded their call.

Here’s what I did:

 5 lbs pork loin
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 TBSP chopped garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tsp Sriracha (more/less depending on your desire for heat)
Place pork in oven proof pot with cover.  Cover with remaining ingredients.  Place in 275 degree oven for 6 hours, or longer.  Baste and turn meat over once or twice during cooking.  Meat is done when it is easily pulled apart with forks.
Serve with thoroughly washed, large lettuce leaves and cooked sticky rice.  Pass a variety of Asian condiments.

Meatballs Mastered, Finally!

Since I’ve been on the topic of my culinary New Year’s Resolutions, I was reminded that one of them was to master meatballs.

For some reason, the ability to craft these delectable orbs has eluded me for decades.  Mine were either too mushy, too dry, lacking flavor, falling apart, overly seasoned–I simply never struck the correct balance.   It was just last week that I managed an affirmatively good version, earning even the approval of my very discriminating  daughter.    My son, on the other hand, never met a hunk of ground beef he didn’t like, so my trials and errors never went to waste. 

I recalled the seemingly unorthodox but very sound meatloaf advice from Down Home Diner’s Chef Jack McDavid–to  use a dough hook for thorough distribution and emulsification of the fat and flavors.  Figuring the principle was the same with meatballs, I used his method.    And it worked!

Here’s what I did…..

For the meatballs:
This made about 2 dozen.

2 1/2 lbs 85% lean ground beef
1/3 cup chopped garlic (I used the jarred stuff and it worked beautifully–use less if fresh)
2 cups Italian style seasoned bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup beef broth or water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Blend all ingredients thoroughly, using dough hook  if possible.  With wet hands, form the mixture into firmly packed balls approx 1 1/2 inches in diameter and drop them into simmering marinara sauce.  Cook on low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve over pasta, on sandwiches, or solo.  (These also freeze really well.)

Ok, next resolution…..It’s only July.