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Growing Up Gourmet: April 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

30 Meals in 30 Days

Cookie Magazine's online community really is "all that's best for your family." From baby strollers to beauty tips and exercise to entertaining, it's a one-stop, content-rich source for all things family. Though I am easily distracted by the "Do-Everything-Better Guides" (who wouldn't be lured by such a claim?) I of course visit the site for creative new ideas in the kitchen.

A must-read for any mom in the "What's For Dinner???" or "Feed My Family.. NOW!" slump, is Jenny Rosenstrach's article 30 Meals in 30 Days, where: "A mother of two sets out to expand her kids' palates, break out of a rut, and ultimately rediscover a small part of her old self."

My favorite part of the article is the week-by-week analysis and links for each new recipe. Rosenstrach offers helpful tips for advanced preparation, heads-up on the number of dirty dishes, viable substitutions for picky-eaters, and provides her family's report-card style rating.

If you're family's been gorging on grilled cheese, instead of Growing Up Gourmet, this is one article to read before your next trip to the store.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eating the Most Out of College

There's no reason your Kitchen Kid should stop "growing up gourmet" when he heads off to college. In fact, perhaps he should choose his college precisely with the interest of becoming a teenage gourmand.

In loco parentis, the Bowdoin College dining hall in Brunswick, ME gives students a taste of culinary ingenuity that, sorry moms, just can't be beat, even in your own kitchen. How about homemade potato-leek soup, freshly baked rosemary bread, and bananas foster? How about a wheatberry salad with dried cranberries and fresh herbs, Maine shrimp cakes with spicy remoulade, and eggs benedict florentine? Still not convinced? Don't forget the annual Thanksgiving dinner under candlelight or the treasured fall lobster-bake complete with steamed clams and corn on the cob. Oh, and no one can resist that hot fudge...

The New York Times today notes that Bowdoin College's Dining Hall uses Fair Trade coffee, organic herbs and vegetables grown on campus, and an in-house butcher to create an ever-rotating menu of homemade recipes. They incorporate student requests and create genuine ethnic meals that respectfully honor traditions and holidays. But as any Polar Bear will tell you, it isn't just the food, but the experience of sharing meals with friends. In the Times, Mary Lou Kennedy, Bowdoin’s dining director, notes that the students, “love the community of food. They were Slow Food 10 years before it became a movement. At dinner, they come and stay for an hour and a half.” That's a good 85 minutes more than most American families spend together at the table. One alumna recalled "feasting from 5pm until we trekked to the library at 8, brains alert and satiated on good food and good conversation." This month, College Prowler named Bowdoin, "school of the year" thanks in part to its tasty treats, and the Princeton Review rates the College's dining hall #1 in the country.

Of course, the revelation in today's Times and these noteworthy publications is no surprise to me, or my dozen very best friends who reminisced about the "DH" over emails all day. Some of my happiest, funniest, most-memorable, and most special college memories (including my first kiss to my future husband) all happened in the Thorne and Moulton Dining Halls, thanks to a wise decision to follow my heart -- and my stomach -- to an unbeatable college in Maine.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Bones About It

Having dinner with my 27-year old friend the other night reminded me of one of my biggest (and silliest) 'food fears' as a child: chicken bones. My friend hesitated to order the roasted chicken, asking our waiter if it would be 'on the bone'. While I was hardly a picky eater as a child (fond of sushi and caviar by 5), I was quite picky when it came to eating chicken on the bone. Thankfully, I've come to realize just how much better chicken actually tastes when it is on the bone.

In two of my recent kids' cooking classes, we have roasted bone-in chicken breasts. Rib bones intact, the meat has been roasted with cherry tomatoes and thyme, or lemon and rosemary. The pan sauce is rich and flavorful; the meat moist and tender. This chicken was no match for it's boneless, skinless brother. Having hesitantly confronted the bone in the kitchen and tasted the results at the table, both groups of children readily admitted bone-in chicken simply yields a more complex and delicious meal. And discovered they had no problems working around the bone.

Aside from the far superior taste of chicken on the bone, my family came up with a list of other benefits last night at dinner, over you guessed it, roasted chicken.

1. It's quick. Okay, well, a 4 lb bird will take about 1 1/2 hours to roast, but it is sure quick to prepare. I was lamenting the fact I'd be roasting such a behemoth after a long day at work. But I mixed up an herb, lemon, and mustard marinade, smoothed it on my chicken, and halved some potatoes, onions and carrots to go in the roasting pan, all in less than 10 minutes. With a side of spinach sauteed in 30 seconds when the bird came out of the oven, I spent less time actually making this dinner than I would have seasoning and sauteing 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and some sides.

2. It's cheaper. Much cheaper. Last night's whole chicken was $1.59/lb for a free-range, organic, grass-fed bird. The boneless, skinless version would sell for nearly five times that amount.

3. It's healthier. Well, I can't promise more vitamins and minerals, but it certainly has seen less commercial processing equipment than the pre-packaged chicken tenders.

4. It feeds a family. With leftovers -- chicken sandwiches... chicken soup....chicken salad....

5. It's an age-old tradition. Roasting a whole chicken has been a culinary adventure since... no joke, the Babylonian times. Your grandma would be proud.

6. Your house will be filled with wonderful aromas that will make you feel like Julia Child.

So next time you're family is in the "chicken-rut", grab a whole bird and give it a roast.

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