Friday, August 31, 2007

Entertaining Children

Entertaining families with children can sometimes be difficult. You never know the likes and dislikes of the children. My children are not picky eaters, but I do realize there are some families with children who will not eat anything but hot dogs. What do you do? I always try to have a very simple, common meal planned. I make sure the children or their parents prepare their plates. This way they can get the portions they desire and leave anything out that they absolutely can not swallow. I do want to add here that I believe it is very important that we teach our children to at least try things if nothing else for the sake of politeness. I can handle a child who will not eat things, but I have known adults who will not eat anything but mashed potatoes and chicken. We do have the one bite of everything rule in our house. We did this with brussel sprouts last night. I bought a small amount because I knew the kids would eat one a piece and then be thrilled to be done with the whole experience. WRONG! I fixed them a new way and they loved them. We did not have enough to go around. Back to entertaining. It is good to always serve something safe with children. Chicken or pasta dishes are usually safe. Cook-outs are good too. Burgers and hot dogs are usually pretty popular with the kids. I have a good Lemon Chicken recipe that is very good and different, but common enough for the children. My Broccoli Casserole is also popular with them. There are way too many good things in it to be healthy! I have also done hot dogs just for the kids when I wasn't sure. Do not let families with children intimidate you, just go simple.

Broccoli Casserole

Broccoli Casserole
2 boxes chopped broccoli(cooked)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Cheddar cheese soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 egg

Mix all ingredients. Place in casserole dish. Dot the top with butter. Cover the top with crushed Cheez-It crackers. They have to be Cheez-Its. Knock off brands do not work as well. Bake at 350 for 30 min.

This dish can be assembled a day ahead. Just add the crackers and bake when your are ready.


1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 skinned, boned chicken breasts, halved, pounded to 1/4 inch thick (about 1 pound)-I do not pound them that thin. Only enough so cook quickly. Maybe 1/2 inch or a little more.
5 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth or white wine
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. capers, drained

Combine flour, pepper and paprika on a plate. Press the chicken breasts into mixture, coating evenly and shaking off any excess. Heat the oil over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook 3 minutes on each side; do not over cook. Transfer chicken to a heated platter. Add broth to pan, scraping any browned bits on the bottom. Stir in lemon juice and capers and heat through. Pour sauce over chicken. Serves 4.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Easy Entertaining

Let's talk about entertaining this week. Entertaining is hard and takes a lot of time and money. I think we can all acknowledge that it is important to do, but when it comes to doing it we procrastinate. Let's discuss a few ways to make it less intimidating. First, in the past(before children) I could do things very last minute. Now, I have to have an entertaining routine in place. I try to make sure my house is clean the day before with only the last minute wipe downs and pick ups saved for the day of. Also, any dish which can be made ahead is made ahead. Plan your menu early in the week so you can grocery shop a few days ahead. There may still be a few things which need to be fresh and picked up on the day of the dinner, but it will just mean a quick trip to the store. If you have the freezer room, make a lasagna or something else that freezes well for the times when you do not have the time to prepare ahead.

I will give you a couple of my easiest dishes to prepare. Peach Glazed Salmon is a great dish and is very simple.

4 (4 to 6-ounce) Alaska salmon steaks or fillets
1/4 cup peach jam or orange marmalade
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large bell peppers (any color)*, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Preheat broiler or grill to medium-high heat.
2. Place salmon on a non-stick or vegetable cooking spray-coated baking or broiler sheet.
3. In a small bowl, blend jam, soy sauce, cayenne pepper and ginger. Brush glaze on salmon. Place sliced vegetables on baking sheet, brushing lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Grill or broil 5 to 7 inches from heat, turning vegetables once, about 10 to 12 minutes, or until salmon flakes with a fork.

Makes 4 servings.

Baked Ziti is also good. It is very simple to make a is good for a crowd. Make a nice salad and garlic bread and you have a great meal. If you want to jazz it up a bit add different kinds of meat. We like to add bacon and Italian sausage. I do not have a recipe that I follow. I just boil the pasta and brown the meat. I then mix it all together with my favorite tomato sauce and cheese. I do not care for ricotta cheese, therefore I use the Italian blend of shredded cheese. Put another layer of cheese on top, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for about an hour. Take the foil off for the last 10 or 15 minutes.

These are a couple of my standbys. What are some of you easiest meals to entertain with?