Grilled Pizza

Pizza with KidsFeatured Recipe: Grilled Pizza
Featured Wine: Chianti, or if you’re feeling sassy: Champagne.

A dab of flour on noses, oops! a little juice spilled. Cooking with kids, what a delightful mess and such fun, say paper towel companies.

More like, splat! there went a dozen eggs. No, you can’t eat raw bacon. How did spaghetti sauce wind up on the ceiling?

So, cooking with kids. Delightful and fun? Yes. A mess? Definitely!

Despite the mess, I started inviting N to help me in the kitchen when he was about 3 years old. He’s going to be there anyway, so he may as well help out! Plus bringing kids into the kitchen teaches them math, science, following instructions, being independent, and self-sufficicient. And if they’re involved they’re less likely to complain about whatever is for dinner.

Just little things at first–mix this, pour that in there. By 4 he was doing more to make meals like brunch than me–making the bacon (using my baking technique), cracking and mixing the eggs. I just put things in the oven and stir them on the stove.

Yes, he makes a giant mess. But he gets better with practice, and anyway who does’t make a little mess while cooking?

One of the easiest cooking activities to introduce him to was the art of assembly. He loves making and building things (think Legos), and can quickly see his efforts rewarded with a finished product. Plus he felt like he had decision rights on what goes where. Sandwiches were good. Salads are easy. And pizza is great.

I like to grill individual pizzas since the grill can get hotter than my oven–I think it makes it a little more authentic. Pizza dough that is partially cooked on the grill, combined with prepped toppings, everyone gets just what they want, with sauce on the ceiling and flour on the nose to prove it!Grilled Pizza

Steak Kabobs

Kabob with kidsFeatured Recipe: Steak Kabobs, Grilled Asparagus

Me: N, what would you like to help me cook for dinner (expecting an answer of mac & cheese or pizza)

N: Steak. I want to help you cook steak. With vegetables. And a nice salad.

Me completely freaking out because he’s hilarious and awesome. And then trying to figure out how he can help me cook something that you literally just throw on the hottest surface you can find for 5 minutes and then slice with your sharpest cutting implement.

Kabob AssembledHe’s 4. He’s super good with assembling and mixing. Not so good with slicing and searing. That’s ok! Kabobs are all about marinating (essentially mixing) and assembly. I cut everything to size in advance and pre-mixed the spice blend (although older kids could easily do that part too). Then, just before dinner, N and I skewered the kabobs. I grilled them solo of course, but he still got to play a big role in helping mom in the kitchen.

Kabob N eatingSo kids can help prepare their steak and eat it too!

Date Night, no sitter required

date night from a long time ago

A date night from a long time ago...our honeymoon.

With 2 kids, date nights are more important than ever. Life gets so crazy that Dan and I sometimes forget to look at each other and say “hey, how are you doing these days?” But getting a sitter, making a reservation, dressing up, can make date night out feel like it’s more effort that it’s worth. It’s a sometimes occasion, but not something we do too regularly.

What we do do regularly though is make a nice dinner after the kids go to bed. Add a nice bottle of wine and maybe a movie rental, and you’ve got an awfully nice evening that didn’t need to be strategized and coordinated like a presidential campaign.

I have a ton of recipes for this kind of meal, but one of my favorites is grilled steak, creamy polenta, and a great salad. It’s a special occasion meal that I often have all of the ingredients for in my house: steaks I bought on sale in the freezer, polenta in the pantry, and salad fixings.

Menu:date night

Grilled Filet Mignon
Roasted Tomato Polenta
Pear & Blue Cheese Salad

Wine: An Oregon Merlot was on sale so I grabbed that and it ended up being a perfect match. Since the filet doesn’t have a big sauce, it’s a pretty mild dish so a typical steak-y wine like Cab or Zinfandel would probably overpower the meal.

The steak is so simple you don’t even need a recipe. Just get your 6-8 ounce filets to room temp while you’re putting the kids to bed. Season well with salt and pepper. Then put on a VERY hot grill for 3 minutes per side for medium rare steak. Let them sit for 10 minutes before serving. Done.

The tomatoes take awhile to roast for the polenta, so get them started while kids are eating dinner. The polenta actually keeps fairly well sitting warm on the stove, so you can start that relatively early too, and then just stir it up, maybe add more liquid to get it to a nice creamy consistency, right before serving.

A low stress, inexpensive, relaxing evening will get you saying “hey, how you doin’?”

Gourmet Daddy: Steakhouse Birthday Dinner for Me!

Dan in the kitchen

Gourmet Daddy

My birthday came around recently and Dan gave me two wonderful presents: a night out for us in the future, and a great dinner on my actual birthday. We get that night out tomorrow night, so it got me thinking about the great dinner he made. A steak house feast made right at home after the kids went to bed. And wine. Amazing wine. Yummmmm.

Steak houses have an advantage over the home cook because they have special ovens that cook steaks at temperatures you and I could never replicate at home. That’s part of what makes their steaks so darn good. That and great cuts of meat that we also don’t have access to in the regular grocery store.

My secret weapon to get closer to that steakhouse experience is balsamic vinegar. Marinating the steaks in balsamic tenderizes the meat, making it ridiculously luscious. And the sugar in the vinegar caramelizes on the grill helping create that great crust that I used to think you could only get at a steak house.

MenuSteakhouse dinner

Balsamic Marinated Steaks
Grilled Asparagus
Baked Potato Bar 

For this meal, Zinfandel from Sonoma is a great choice. Bold and jammy, it stands up great to grilled foods. With all of the money you saved doing the cooking for yourself, I think you deserve to splurge on a really good one.

With Gourmet Daddy doing the cooking, mommy gets the full steakhouse experience right at home!

Weekly Menu: Chicken Flatbread, Greek Salad, Curry Chicken Salad

This is the first of a series of weekly menus to help busy parents prepare homecooked meals a few times a week. It includes dinner recipes for 3 nights and a shopping list. I plan to post these on Saturday mornings so you can use it for your weekly grocery shopping. I hope you find it useful!

When I was planning this week’s menu, I started with the Chicken Flatbread because it’s one of our favorites. But I realized that we’d have a bunch of random things leftover from that recipe, so decided to make a Shrimp Greek salad later in the week to use it up. And to make life easier later in the week, while I’m making Chicken Flatbread I’ll grill up some extra chicken breasts to use another day in Curry Chicken Salad.

Dinner Menu #1Chicken Flatbread complete

Grilled Chicken Flatbread with Tahini Dressing

This is pretty much a meal in and of itself, but if you wanted you could grill some zucchini and/or eggplant on the side for some added vegetable nutrition.

Dinner Menu #2

Shrimp Greek Salad
Hummus and pita

This is a great way to use up the extra ingredients from the chicken flatbread recipe.

Dinner Menu #3Curried Chicken Salad complete

Curry Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Garden Salad

I’m going to serve the sandwiches on either a hearty whole grain bread from the bakery or perhaps wrapped in naan if I can find some. Add lettuce and tomato and it’s done! A quick garden salad on the side makes a simple, delicious meal for the whole family.

Shopping List

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb peeled shrimp
2 lemons
1 large head romaine lettuce
grape tomatoes
cucumber
oregano
mint
grapes
olive oil–extra virgin
curry powder
slivered almonds
chickpeas (also called garbonzo beans)
tahini (often found near peanut butter)
Greek yogurt
feta
1 cup Kalamata or Greek olives
whole wheat pocketless pita

On the Grill: Honey-Lime Glazed Ribs

Honey Garlic Glazed RibsI always get excited about grilling as soon as the weather gets above freezing after a long winter. It’s not exactly grilling weather, but I’m ready anyway! This rib recipe is perfect for that kind of weather. Most of the cooking actually happens in the oven to make the ribs really tender. Then they are finished on a hot grill with a tangy honey-lime glaze to create a tasty crust on the tender ribs.

This is also a great make-ahead recipe. You can marinate and pre-cook the ribs well in advance, and then just throw on the grill for 20 minutes when you’re ready to serve dinner. There’s a significant amount of time involved in making really good ribs, but most of it is inactive time so it’s easy to execute with little ones running around. If you’re serving to your kids you may want to omit the jalapenos from the glaze for a little less spice.

My Honey-Garlic Glazed Ribs are the perfect reason to break out the grill this season!