Monday, January 23, 2012

Baked Fish Sticks

My family does not eat enough fish.  I get lots of complaints when I do make it resulting in picked at plates and a frustrated mommy who has wasted valuable time and money on a dinner that ended up in the garbage can.  BUT…Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which strengthen the immune system, aid in neurological and brain development, and is good for the heart (according to a 2006 Harvard study).  Seafood is high in lean protein and very low in saturated fats. Children need lean protein to maintain their high energy levels and help restore muscle tissue. 

I have some picky eaters.  No, they don’t want to eat cauliflower.  No, they don’t want to eat broccoli.  No, they don’t WANT to eat their vegetables (at all).  But they will.  They need to.  It is Mike's and my job, as parents, to model and foster healthy eating habits on a daily basis.  Sometimes it takes my kids up to 10 or 15 times of trying something (and I mean teeny tiny bites) until they actually commit to LIKING it.  This is why I have psyched myself up, prepared myself for wasted time and money and WILL serve some kind of healthy fish dinner once a week.  

I started with these fish sticks.  I won’t lie and tell you that they cleared their plates and jumped for joy at the sight of me slicing up cod filets but they admitted to liking them and didn’t gag or cry at the dinner table.  Success!!!!  I loved them and plan on making them again and again!  I would love to hear what your kids think! 

Prep Ahead Plan:  I made these the night before and left them on the pan in the fridge, covered with foil, ready to baked the next evening.

Homemade Baked Fish Sticks
adapted by Giada de Laurentiis  

2 Atlantic cod fillet(s), cut into strips, 1/2 inch X 3 inch   (The filets I used were large and equaled about 1 ½ pounds total.  I got about 24 fish sticks out of them.)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs   
 4 egg white(s)   
Olive oil cooking spray   
2 tsp olive oil   
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese   
1/4 cup all-purpose flour   
1 tsp lemon pepper   
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp tartar sauce, for serving   (I used store bought) 

1. Wash and dry cod filets and cut into strips. 
2. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
3. Mix the flour, salt, pepper and lemon pepper in a small bowl. 
4. Whisk the egg whites for 30 seconds. 
5. Mix the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs in a bowl. 
6. Dip each piece of cod in flour making sure to shake off the excess. 

7. Dip in egg white and then in breadcrumb /Parmesan mixture and place on the baking sheet.
8. Repeat with each piece of cod. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes! Serve with tartar sauce if desired.


4 T



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Pasta E Olive Garden Copycat...

I’m not sure how my grandmother would feel about me calling this soup pasta e fagioli given that the Italian translation is “pasta and beans” but if the Olive Garden can get away with it, then so can I.  Traditionally, pasta e fagioli is a meatless dish, which is exactly how my Gram made it.  Today, there are so many variations like this one that include the additions of vegetables and meat.   Although nothing compares to my grandmother’s recipe, this one comes in as a close second!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Brown the meat the night before and place all ingredients in the slow cooker.  Refrigerate overnight and turn it on before you leave in the morning. 

Slow Cooker Pasta E Fagioli
2 lbs ground beef (I used 96% lean)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (32 ounce) cartons beef stock
3 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon Tabasco (optional)
1 (8 ounce) can spaghetti sauce
8 ounces pasta
1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
For Serving:
Crushed red pepper
Parmesan cheese

1.     Brown meat and place in the slow cooker with the next 12 ingredients.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
2.     During the last hour, add the beans and pasta.* Serve with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper when pasta is cooked!

*I boiled my pasta on the stove separately.  I did this because I was afraid the pasta would absorb too much liquid and the soup would be too thick.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Baked Asian Style Pork Chops

Here’s an easy pork chop bake that is perfect for weeknights!  I love when a recipe calls for ingredients that I already have on hand.  This sauce is very flavorful and also works well on chicken.  I serve it over brown rice with steamed broccoli on the side.

Prep Ahead Plan:  Mix up the sauce and marinate the pork overnight.  Bake it when you get home from work the next day! 

I love a recipe that doesn't require dirtying ANY dishes other than the one you're baking it in!!!

Baked Asian Style Pork Chops

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
5-6 center cut pork chops, trimmed (I use thinly sliced pork chops)

1.     Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Mix soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, and ketchup right in the baking dish.
2.     Place pork chops in the baking dish and turn them to coat in the sauce.  Cover and refrigerate overnight OR bake immediately at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.*
*We like our pork chops very thinly sliced.  If your pork chops are thicker, bake them for a longer time.  Usually 40-45 minutes works best but make sure the internal temperature is 160 degrees.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I’m always looking for a healthy treat to pack in the girls’ lunch boxes.  I like this muffin recipe because it calls for whole wheat flour and oats.  A step up from cookies and cupcakes for sure!

Prep Ahead Plan:  I like to double the batch and individually wrap 12 of the muffins in saran wrap.  I keep them in the freezer to have on hand for those weeks when there is no time for baking! 

I’m always looking for a healthy treat to pack in the girls’ lunch boxes.  I like this muffin recipe because it calls for whole wheat flour and oats.  A step up from cookies and cupcakes for sure!

Prep Ahead Plan:  I like to double the batch and individually wrap 12 of the muffins in saran wrap.  I keep them in the freezer to have on hand for those weeks when there is no time for baking! 

Whole Wheat Blueberry Oat Muffins
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup orange juice
¾  cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan. Mix the oats and orange juice together in a small bowl and set aside.
2.   In another bowl, mix the two kinds of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Blend in the oil and egg (make sure it is well combined). Stir in the oat mixture and fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups.
3.   Shake some cinnamon on the tops of each muffin before baking.  Bake 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken

Something about the freezing cold weather of January sends me on a hunt for slow cooked comfort food. I came across this chicken recipe on Pinterest from a website called the Tidy Mom.  I'm so glad I decided to give it a try.  I did adapt it slightly by omitting the mushrooms and adding additional seasoning. This dish will definitely be making the regular menu rotation around here!  This isn't the typical 8-10 hours on low kind of recipe that I am oh so fond of, but if you have a slow cooker that will switch to low after the elapsed cooking time or you can sneak home at lunch to switch on the crock pot, then this will be perfect for the weekday.  If not, this makes for a great Sunday dinner served with sauteed baby spinach and a salad!  Please give it a try!  I'd love to know what you think!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Do steps 1 and 2 the night before and leave the crock pot insert in the fridge overnight.  Just turn it on low when you are ready to start cooking!  

Creamy Italian Chicken over Pasta

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (the very thick ones)
1 envelope Italian salad dressing
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup water
¾ of an 8 ounce block of reduced fat cream cheese
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
16 0z package of thin spaghetti (cooked according to package directions)

1.  Cut the chicken breasts into bite size pieces and place in the slow cooker.
2.  Mix water, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano and crushed hot red pepper (if using) in a small bowl and pour over chicken.
3.  Cook on low for 5 hours.  During the last hour stir in the cream cheese and can of condensed soup.  Serve over pasta!  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Slow Cooker Whole "Roasted" Chicken

Sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple.  This recipe requires minimal prep work and is perfect as a Sunday dinner but is also perfect for any weekday.  Slow cooking a whole chicken will give you different results then the oven baked version.  The skin won’t crisp up in the crock pot so I often remove it and toss it after cooking.  Using this seasoning mixture will leave the meat very moist and very flavorful!  Serve with rice or potatoes and a vegetable!   (Arranging veggies and potatoes around the chicken is an option.  They tend to cook up a little too mushy for me but if you don’t mind overly tender veggies, then toss them in!)

Prep Ahead Plan:  Prepare this the night before and refrigerate.  Turn it on before you head out of the door the next morning! 

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken
1 (3 pound) whole chicken, neck and giblets removed
1 onion, cut in quarters
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon rosemary
½ cup chicken broth

1.     1.  Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
2.     2.  Loosely ball up 3 pieces of tin foil (about 3-4 inches in diameter) and place on the bottom of the slow cooker.
3.     3.  Mix the seasonings and olive oil together and rub underneath the skin of the chicken AND on top of the skin.
4.    4.   Place onion and garlic in the cavity of the chicken and place the chicken on top of the foil balls.
5.     5.  Pour chicken broth in the bottom of the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
*****The chicken will be “fall off the bone tender.” I usually leave the chicken in the pot and remove all of the meat and place it on the serving tray.  If you try to pick it up, it will fall apart.