Thursday, December 23, 2010

Baking for a Cause

Back in January I wrote about one of my goals for the year: to find more opportunities for community involvement and creative charitable giving using food and involving kids. This goal was inspired by Michelle Stern of What's Cooking with Kids. Well, it's December, but I achieved my goal!

This past weekend my 15 year old daughter had several of her friends over for a cookie decorating party. This has become an annual tradition for her, which I am happy to support. In addition to providing a comfortable space for her to get together with friends, I am happy to encourage any overtures she makes to be in the kitchen as she is my least kitchen-confident child. This year we headed into her cookie party deciding at the outset to donate (most of) the cookies to our church, which distributes them along with other items at a soup kitchen. The party was a great success ~ the girls all had fun, were very creative, and felt good about their donation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

5 Ways to Connect Food and Family at the Holidays

This article originally appeared in the Dinner Together Newsletter, Family Issue, December 2009.

The holiday season offers special opportunities for sharing food and family traditions. So many of our holiday traditions are related to food, and children can be involved easily in several ways. Here are a few quick ideas.

1.            Baking and decorating cookies. A classic, but an activity I know my children look forward to and enjoy every year. Their favorite cookie-related activity is to decorate sugar cookies and gingerbread men, but I also like to get them involved in helping with other recipes. Usually, there are a few of their friends joining us for this activity as well.
2.            Food for charity. Food drives with collections of nonperishable food items are common at the holidays. Have your children shop with you and drop off donations. Or perhaps you can find an organization willing to accept all those holiday cookies you made and don't want to keep in the house! Some soup kitchen programs request cooked meals. If there is one near you, enlist your kids help in preparing a large batch of chili or stew. Explore what opportunities are in your town or neighborhood.
3.            Make food gifts. Over the years (in addition to all the cookies!) we've made pralines, jars with cookie recipes and ingredients, and jars with bean soup recipes and ingredients as gifts. These are all projects that kids can easily participate in and enjoy. 
4.            Menu planning. Include your children in your holiday menu planning. Whether you're hosting or bringing something to someone else's home, ask your children for ideas about what they would like and what they think others would like to eat.
5.            Teach traditional recipes. As your children get older and can be of more help in the kitchen, teach them your family's traditional holiday recipes. I'm looking forward to teaching my daughter how to clean and prepare mussels for Christmas Eve this year. This is how our traditions get passed down from one generation to another.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken - such a basic thing, but not always so easy to make. I know I was a little overwhelmed by a whole bird at first, but now I fear no more! The recipe below works really well for me and then yields enough leftover chicken to save, freeze, and use in future recipes. Some of my favorite uses of chicken leftovers are chicken lo mein, chicken rosti (potato-chicken-egg pancakes ~ I'll have to post that recipe soon!), and chicken mushroom pasta.


6 pound whole chicken
olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons of dried herbs*

·      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
·      Remove giblets and neck from inside the chicken.
·      Rinse chicken and pat dry.
·      Brush chicken with olive oil (or rub oil with your fingers).
·      Sprinkle with herbs, salt, and pepper.
·      Place bird, breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan.
·      Roast until meat thermometer inserted into thigh registers 180 degrees.
·      Depending on your oven and the size of your chicken, it should take about 25 minutes per pound to cook.

*Use what you have on hand. Some recommendations that go well with poultry ~ poultry seasoning mix, thyme, sage, rosemary. If you have fresh herbs available, increase the amount that you’re using. A good rule of thumb is to use a 1:3 dried:fresh ratio.

Convection oven variation

A few years ago I got a convection oven. My favorite way to use it is making roasted chicken. The skin comes out really crispy and the meat is really moist. If you have a convection oven, decrease the oven heat to 325 degrees, and decrease the cooking time to about 20 minutes per pound.