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This time of year begs for warm, comforting, hearty dishes that come together quickly.  Who has time to spend in the kitchen when there’s two feet of snow to shovel?  The beauty of minestrone soup is that it’s never the same twice and doesn’t get boring, at least not in our house.  The basic formula does not vary- beans, vegetables, broth.  The specifics, however, tend to change as the wind blows.

Minestrone Revisited

Using the Year of Slow Cooking recipe as my guide, I vary what will go in the soup each time.  Kids can help prep the vegetables, even choosing which to add, and help measure and pour the ingredients.  Even if you put the soup together after your kids have already left for school, they can chop the night before to make your morning smoother.  My kids love peeling and slicing carrots, and who can say no to that?

I love zucchini in minestrone, but it’s not something I tend to have in the refrigerator in the dead of March.  So we did without, and that was fine.  This particular time around, we were shortly post-snowstorm, and I was dipping into the bottom of the crisper and back of the pantry to make dinner happen.  I used red kidney beans, chickpea (garbanzo) beans, a large can of diced tomatoes, lots and lots of chopped carrots and celery, some diced garlic, and dried onion flakes.  Unlike the original recipe, I use chicken broth rather than beef, and canned beans instead of dried.  An hour before serving, I added frozen, thawed green beans, and five minutes before serving, a few cups of fresh baby spinach.  I find the fresh spinach is so much better in the soup that frozen, as called for in the original recipe.  In an effort to keep the carbs lower, we skipped the pasta, but did serve the soup with crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.

We enjoyed the soup after a chilly day outside, and had enough leftover for two days of lunch.  It provides an awesome way to get a ton of vegetables and lean protein.  Naturally gluten and dairy free, vegetarian, and low in fat, it makes the perfect meal.  Everyone feels genuinely happy to see this soup for dinner, which is a nice compliment to the recipe. While the temps are still low, make your family a warm and healthy dinner that comes together quickly, and spend your time making memories instead.  Share your favorite wintertime recipes with our readers, below.

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I grew up in New York.  We serve chicken for dinner, and waffles for breakfast (unless you’re having breakfast for dinner, then waffles may grace the table).  Chicken and waffles together, though?  I don’t get it.   My husband, the meat eater, totally gets it.  So much so that he ordered it in a restaurant recently.  He loved it, of course, and thus began his quest to recreate it at home.

Chicken and Waffles

Our standby waffle recipe comes from the culinary goddess Silvana.  They’re crispy, fluffy, perfect-every-time waffles that just so happen to be gluten-free.  I make her pancake/waffle mix in bulk and keep it in a jar, ready to go.  If you’re gluten-free, you can’t go wrong with her recipe, or substitute your own family favorite.

There are as many fried chicken recipes floating around as there are, well, chickens.  Quite honestly, I wasn’t home and have no idea which recipe my husband used.  Unless he wrote it down, he probably doesn’t know, either.  He did use chicken breasts, to keep it healthy (well, healthier; it’s still fried chicken after all).  If you’re gluten-free, fried chicken is best made at home, substituting the proper flour.  So, you can google a recipe and decide if you want it baked or fried, buy your chicken already made if you so please, or steal it from your neighbor’s ranch- that’s up to you.  I can tell you that marinating it in buttermilk first leads to it being extra juicy.  We did this, as I always keep buttermilk powder in the fridge for impromptu cooking.  I love having the powder on hand so we can whip up pancakes or other culinary delights without worrying about what to do with the extra buttermilk in the carton. If you’re dairy-free, use any non-dairy milk and sour the milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

I like my waffles with eggs, most preferably a spinach or broccoli and cheese omelet.  My husband giddily piled his chicken, waffles, and omelet all together, as you see here.  I ate my waffles and omelet as I normally do, thank you very much, but did try the chicken to be polite.  It was good, but I still can’t figure out why I’d want to eat it along with breakfast for dinner.  To each his own.  If you have some adventurous eaters in your home, give chicken and waffles a try.  Something different can be fun, so why not?

My favorite recipes are the ones that can easily be gluten free (or not) will little modification.  I find these types of meals more accessible and well-liked.  A friend just recently found out she has Celiac Disease and became gluten free. Chatting with her about favorite cookbooks, resources, and meal ideas got me nostalgic for those early days when the impossible-seeming transition loomed ahead.  Even though it’s been years for us, it’s still fun to discover something new.  She shared this recipe after trying it out with approving results, so I decided to make it for my family.  Hearing we were making Chinese food, my older daughter asked to make lo mein, and my younger one wanted to make her famous honey carrots.  Who can turn down kids who want to help in the kitchen?

Chinese Food Night

The blogger designed her honey chicken recipe as gluten free (cornstarch rather than flour, and gluten-free soy sauce) but it tasted no different than regular Chinese food, and would appeal to anyone who enjoys this type of dish.  My husband was home to clean and cube the chicken (my least favorite part). Meanwhile, my older daughter prepared the glaze for the chicken, and then worked on lo mein.  Our favorite lo mein recipe comes from the original Gluten Free on a Shoestring cookbook.  For both of the dishes above, we substitute coconut aminos for half of the soy sauce, since it has less sodium and we try to consume minimal soy.  Finally, my little one worked on the honey carrots, which come from her favorite kids’ cookbook.  Other than my helping cut the carrots into coins using a sharp knife, this is one she was able to do independently. They come out well, and she’s always pleased to have made the dish herself.

This dinner took a bit of time to prepare. None of it is particularly hard, but the chicken has to be browned and sauteed in its glaze, the lo mein sauce needs to cook down, and carrots have to be steamed. Fortunately, all four of us were in the kitchen and working together. Everything tasted great, so it was worth the wait.  More importantly, there’s such value to opportunities for kids to cook along with their parents, and we had lots of fun.  Give your feedback on the honey chicken, or share your favorite family dinner ideas with our readers.

Now that cold temps and snow have finally arrived, soups, stews, and chili call like sirens from the kitchen.  I’ve shared my turkey chili recipe before, and it’s one that we always enjoy. I typically make a double batch, freeze half for the future, and all’s well.  I came across a different recipe this week that looked delicious, and decided to try it.  My family was surprised when they heard what I was making, “Chicken chili?  Why chicken?”  Yet afterwards, we were all glad I tried something new.

Southwest Chicken Chili

Crockpot cooking offers a great opportunity for kids to help with meal preparation. Especially in a recipe as simple as this one, ingredients are measured, poured, and mixed. Kids can help with every step, and other than using a can opener, there’s nothing sharp or tricky involved.  As always, the beauty of slow cooking becomes evident when you return home from a busy day to find dinner waiting, without the mess of last minute prep.

Creamy Chicken Chili

The biggest difference between this recipe and the one I usually make (other than the chicken) was the addition of the ranch powder and cream cheese.  We make our own ranch powder and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator (using this great recipe), and it worked beautifully.  The only change I made to the chili was to use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes, and I omitted the chili powder as a result.  I used two frozen chicken breasts, and cooked it on low for eight hours.  We ate it with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips, and it was delicious.  Really, really good. I will most definitely make this again.

Share your favorite crockpot recipe with our readers, especially ones suitable for kids in the kitchen.  Keep warm! Snow’s on its way.

It’s no secret that I love a) my crockpot and b) soup.  Combine a + b and I’m one happy mama.  With the busy holiday season and cold days, coming home to a warm, healthy meal that was prepped in the morning is a gift in and of itself.  I was looking to make something different the other day, and had frozen chicken breasts and a bag of potatoes that I wanted to use.  I couldn’t think of anything offhand, so I did some Googling.  The search resulted in a plethora of options, so I read through them until I found one that looked good.  Hearty potatoes, chicken, carrots and celery, some turkey bacon to add flavor-depth… yum. Thanks to a well-stocked pantry, I was able to make a decent meal without a trip to the store.  This recipe also had a few steps that could easily be assisted by my kids, which is always a bonus.

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Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup

I followed the recipe almost exactly.  (Anyone who knows me just fell over in shock). There wasn’t anything I needed to omit or modify in order to make it gluten-free, which is awesome.  I used turkey bacon, which I had in the freezer but thawed really quickly by running the edge of the package under warm water in order to separate four slices. After these were crisped in a frying pan, I put the remaining ingredients into the crockpot.  I don’t always like crockpot recipes that require pre-cooking some ingredients as that kind of defeats the purpose, but for certain ingredients, like bacon, I get it. The chicken breasts were frozen (not shredded like shown in the recipe photo), but I knew that’d be fine since ultimately it would break up in the liquid.  Most soup recipes cook all day on low, so I was surprised to see this one call for cooking on high.  Since my crockpot is newer and cooks quickly, I was able to cook it for six hours rather than a whole day, and it was fully cooked.  My kids helped peel and slice the potatoes, carrots, and celery, so I count that as cooking with kids.

After about four hours of cooking on high,  I could tell the chicken breasts had softened up.  I gently shredded them with two meat forks, so that they would absorb the broth. After two more hours, the liquid was bubbly.  I tested the potatoes and carrots, which were fork-tender and ready to eat.  In order to give the soup some depth and creaminess, I ran the immersion blender through it just a little.  I made sure to break up the chunks of chicken and some of the vegetables, but left it very chunky. The soup was extremely hot due to being cooked on high, so it required scooping into bowls for a good cooling period before it was ready to serve.  The recipe photo showed shredded cheese on top, but it didn’t appear to need it, so I skipped it.  I could put cheese on most anything, so that says a lot about the flavor of the soup.  With the diced turkey bacon, it had a richness that seemed complete on its own.

This was a big hit.  My husband can be really picky about soup (he prefers dinner on a plate, not in a bowl) but the turkey bacon seemed to sway him into concluding that the soup was enough to be “dinner.”  My kids loved it, as it wasn’t too spicy and contained nothing that needed to be eaten around (like zucchini, whose presence always offends them when it’s in soup).  It made a wonderful amount- plenty for dinner with enough left over for another night.  That’s always a huge bonus, as another dinner that can just be heated and eaten makes me really happy.  I guess it doesn’t take much to win me over.

Overall, A+.  Easy to make without any fussy ingredients, unique soup (no beans or pasta, as so many tend to have), healthy, gluten-free without any substitutions, and one simple enough for the kids to help prep.  I’m looking forward to eating it again tonight.  My husband would like to add that “pork bacon would bring out a whole different flavor.” I don’t eat or cook with pork, though, so he’ll have to make it himself if he’d like to test that out. Share your favorite soup recipes with our readers below, or your feedback on this one. Happy (almost) Holidays!

I talk a lot about kids making dinner. There’s a few reasons.  #1 It is a great skill for adulthood.  Who doesn’t want kids to learn how to shop resourcefully, have confidence in the kitchen, make healthy meals instead of relying on take out, and dazzle you with a dinner party one day? #2 It makes life easier.  I know I’m not the only busy parent out there. The ability to hand off parts of dinner while I get another task done is just fabulous.  #3 Building off of the first two reasons, kids get to know that they contributed to the family, helped mom or dad with an important job, and feel good about themselves. But… what should they cook?

Burgers

My husband was setting up ingredients to make burgers this afternoon, and my daughter offered to help him. Side by side, he mixed and shaped the beef while she did the turkey, and I watched from afar as I folded laundry.  I listened to her learning how much of this and that to add, and how pleased she was with her work when she’d finished. For a simple recipe that kids can handle, oversee the sprinkling of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.  Meanwhile, my little one wanted to help with fries.  Together we washed and sliced; she with a butter knife.  These needed only a little seasoning of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  A side of steamed vegetables and some fruit, and dinner was complete.

Fries

Letting your kids help, and eventually cook, the family’s meals is an on-going process. Begin small with them helping you, follow familiar recipes, and let them take over as you help them.  Stay nearby, teach them to check the recipe periodically so they don’t skip a step or ingredient, and explain the differences between techniques such as whisking or dicing.  Equally as important, bring them along to the grocery store when you have a little extra time.  Teach them to compare unit prices, check produce for damage, and find a good deal.  Let them pick out a recipe that they’re excited to make, or plan part of a special meal.  Their excitement will be contagious, and you’ll be building their repertoire.

If you have a kid-approved recipe, share with our readers below.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Enjoy your dinner!

Make Your Own Burrito Bowl Night is always a favorite in our house.  My kids love the fact that they get to decide what goes in their bowl, and I love their enthusiasm, and the fact that they can help prep dinner.  At the end of the night, you’re the coolest (and most well-rested) parent in the house.Make Your Own Burrito Bowls

Make Your Own Burrito Bowls

You can customize this to everyone’s likes, dislikes, and dietary needs.  Our typical Burrito bowl choices include rice, red and black beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocados, and sliced olives.  You could serve seasoned beef, poultry, even fish, but I find that the protein offered by the beans is a good opportunity for a meatless meal.  As the rice cooks, I steam cut-up carrots above it, which can be added to the Burrito bowl, or eaten separately.  We each grab a few ingredients, and wash, slice, chop, and pour into bowls.  Rice can be made in advance, heck, you can even chop the veggies at your convenience rather than right before dinner.  This works great on nights when we have to eat on the go.  I give everyone a thermos, put all of the choices on the table, and everyone makes their own.  Pack some utensils and napkins, and you’re good to go.

Some days allow for lots of ingredients and complicated recipes, whereas other nights, I’m just happy we’re eating a hot meal.  This one falls in between- the prep involved can take a little time, but it’s simple steps, and can easily be done by your kids.  You walk away feeling like you had a fancy Mexican meal, for a fraction of the cost, much healthier, and quicker.  I find these meal ideas to be essential during a period of busy family life.  Share your quick-but-healthy ideas with our readers, below!  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

It’s been one of those weeks. Seriously.  Jam-packed with activities, my husband working late hours on a project, and the nice weather luring us outside as much as possible.  There are two nights a week that require me to pack our dinner into a cooler in the early afternoon and take it along to my kids’ evening activities.  While a picnic is fun on a relaxing Summer afternoon, I could do without having to pack dinner to-go on school nights, but whatever.  That’s the nature of our schedule these days.

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup

I was looking for something to make in the crockpot to alleviate some of the workload, but also something different.  After our winter dinner rotation of soups, chili, and casseroles, I really didn’t want to make a meal we’d had recently.  I looked online for a recipe that would be quick and not too complicated, so that I could prepare it before we headed out for the day.  I found this recipe for Easy Crockpot Taco Soup, and I was thrilled to see I had all of the ingredients already.  A few changes (if I ever post a blog that doesn’t contain changes to a recipe, call for help; I’ve been kidnapped and am writing under duress). Instead of a can of spicy Rotel, I used another can of diced tomatoes, since we don’t like too much heat.  We use our own homemade ranch mix  and homemade taco seasoning instead of packets, and I always substitute ground turkey and chicken broth instead of beef.  It came together quickly in the morning, and we were happy to find dinner waiting after a busy day.

I have to say, this was really, really good. I suspect it was the addition of the homemade ranch mix, because that’s not something that’s ever been in any of our taco or soup dishes.  Garnished with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar, we all loved it.  This is definitely one we will make again!

Share a dish you turn to when you’re looking for something for different, or leave a comment below.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

I was looking for something different to do with ground turkey, feeling kind of tired of the usual tacos, meatballs, burgers.  I came across this recipe for a taco casserole-style dish, and was contemplating whether or not my family would like it.  My younger daughter came up behind me, looked at the picture on the screen, and asked, “Is that for dinner?  Cool!” So, I figured I’d give it a try.  It looked easy to double, so I decided to make an extra batch to keep in the freezer for a busy night when we needed a quick dinner.  The recipe author titled it, “Ground Turkey Taco Skillet,” but said that her son dubbed it, “Taco Explosion,” so that’s what my family has decided to call it.

Taco Explosion

Taco Explosion

I followed this recipe very closely, omitting only the green chilis (I was afraid it’d be too spicy for me, I mean, the kids) and tomatoes (and used a little extra salsa in its place).  A friend was having surgery and I wanted to give her some food to have in the freezer for her recovery, so I gave her the second batch.  Using lean ground turkey and light cheese, it was easy to make in a healthy way.  Everyone in our house, both adults and kids, adored this dish.  I served it with romaine lettuce, chunks of avocado, and sour cream, which complemented it perfectly.  What we didn’t finish at dinner was gone by lunch the next day.  This is definitely a dinner that will appear again in our rotation, as it was quite easy and so delicious.  I loved that it took something we loved (tacos) and made it fresh again.

Share your favorite dishes that bring something new to an old favorite.  To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy Spring!

Before it gets too warm for soup, I had to sneak one more in there.  My favorite thing about soup is how many different vegetables I can include, and that everyone says, “Yum,” as I fill the bowls.  Soup is filling without being too heavy, and usually a healthy meal.  It’s also easy to vary the protein (beans, shredded chicken, mini meatballs, sausage) to keep it fresh.

Tuscan Sausage Vegetable Soup

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I came across some local, fresh zucchini on sale this week and it was the inspiration for making this soup.  My kids typically love vegetables but turn down zucchini, unless it’s in soup or zucchini bread.  I spent some time online looking for a soup recipe that included zucchini other than our usual Minestrone, and found one that called for tortellini.  While I love, love, love tortellini, it’s not easy to find gluten free and super expensive at the health food store.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get any before making the soup, and had also seen a recipe for a similar recipe that used sausage instead of pasta.  I decided to make the substitution this time around.

Following this recipe quite closely, I made almost no changes.  I used oregano instead of rosemary, and Trader Joe’s chicken sun-dried tomato sausage (no pork casing- yeah!) in lieu of the tortellini.  I sautéed the sausage separately and put slices of it into each bowl when serving the soup.  I’ll try it with the tortellini next time, but plan to cook it separately rather than in the soup itself as the author mentions.

By the way, the soup was delicious.  I made an herb focaccia bread to go along with it (Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread) and it was perfect for dipping.  I had to pack the soup in thermoses and bring along since we had to eat dinner in between my kids’ evening activities, and none of us could wait till it was dinner time.  I’ll definitely make this one again, and leftovers were great for a quick lunch.

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