Food Glorious Food- Cheddar Baked Chicken

It’s been too long since I’ve shared a recipe (Because you know I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with my kitchen and all). One of the first Pinterest delights that I tried was a recipe my friend Cathy had pinned called Cheddar Baked Chicken. It is an absolutely amazing dish and always a hit at our house.  It might not be the most healthy because of the Ritz crackers and the sauce, but it sure does taste delicious and there are plenty of substitutes out there: check out this list for some great substitutions. While writing this, I decided I might just try a healthy alternative version of this next time I make this dish just for kicks and giggles.

Ingredients:
4 Large Chicken Breasts
1/2-1 whole block Cheddar Cheese
1 Sleeve Ritz Cracker (or substitute)
1/2 cup milk
1 Egg
Salt
Pepper
Parsley
Any Spices you might like

For the Sauce:
1 Can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 TBS SC
1 TBS butter
Parsley

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400°
Squish up your Ritz Crackers in the cracker sleeve and then dump the crackers crumbs into a bowl. (If you prefer to use a food processor have at it, I just view it as one more thing to clean up so I skip it.) Add salt, pepper and whatever spices you like to the crackers.
Shred your Block of cheese into another bowl.
Mix your milk and egg into a third bowl.
Grease a large glass baking pan.
Cut up your chicken breasts into about 3-4 pieces per breast.
Dip your pieces of chicken in the milk mixture, then the bowl of cheddar cheese. Press the cheese into the chicken, then dip into the crackers.  Lay the breaded chicken in the pan.  Repeat for all the chicken pieces.  Sprinkle any leftover cheese and crumbs on top of the chicken in the pan.
Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until chicken is golden brown.

For the sauce:
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Pour over chicken (or in the case of little persons put on the side so they can dip.)

Pair with some veggies or a salad and you have a delicious meal you will be taking requests for in the future.

Snack, Snack, Snackity Snack

When you are trying to eat more “real food” and less “processed” foods you get asked frequently about snacks for the kiddo’s.  This is what kind of snacks we have in our house for adults and kiddos alike:

Fresh fruit (and frozen fruit for smoothies and popsicles)
Dehydrated Fruit (We love Brothers All Natural)
Dried Fruit
Fruit Snacks (We like Simply Balanced )
Raisins
Yogurt covered raisins/blueberries
Chocolate covered cherries
Pretzels
Annie’s bunnies or Crackers (we keep these to a minimum)
Popcorn
Trail mix of assorted varieties
Nuts or Seeds (Pumpkin and Squash Seeds are delicious)
Granola bars (we love Kind Bars)
Hummus and Pita Chips
Olives (for the babe) Yes you read that correctly OLIVES!
Cheese
Pepperoni or deli fresh lunch meat
Broccoli and an assortment of Raw Veggies
Hard Boiled Eggs
Cold Kidney Beans

When I do buy processed foods as snacks, like granola bars, I READ the ingredients, the trick is being able to identify all the ingredients.  If there are long words you don’t understand, you probably don’t want to eat whatever it is. On occasion we do break down and have chips or some type of crackers, maybe some homemade sweetness like pumpkin or banana bread or homemade cookies. For the most part we try to eat more whole foods or we make it ourselves. A challenge in itself, (especially for us full time working people) but so incredibly worth it for yourself and your family.

Things We Need to Teach our Children – Good Eating Habits

Good Eating Habits

I am always slightly appalled when I see people feeding small children McDonalds. We really should do better for our children.  I have a child that has survived more than two years now, never having tasted a McDonald’s anything.  I won’t lie and say my child has never eaten any sort of fast food.  There have been several occasions where he has eaten chicken strips or tenders from ChickFila or Sonic, but these events are few and far between.  I want my child to grow up liking to eat healthy foods and so I try my hardest to provide him with healthy food and to show him that I eat healthy in hopes that he will follow suit.

One thing about being a parent is that we try to model behaviors that we want our children to have.  When you want your children to eat healthy that means you end up eating healthier too! Our children learn about food mostly from us, so we need to take advantage of this and TEACH them about food.  Show them that you eat healthy food and they will follow suit!

To aid in teaching our children to eat healthier, we need to teach our children where their food comes from. Food doesn’t just magically appear in stores or in restaurants and children should be aware of this.   We need to teach them about where the plants and animals they eat come from.  If you have a green thumb or if you’ve always wanted to try. . . planting an edible garden, an herb garden or just a few tomato plants in a pot is an excellent way to teach them about where their food comes from.  If you children pick out and grow their own vegetables they are usually more willing to try new ones as they helped in the creation of them.  (Also, buying a bag full of ladybugs and releasing them into your garden is incredible fun.)  If you’re not so great at keeping plants alive or you can’t imagine adding one more daily activity to your already hectic schedule try driving your kids to the local farmers market, or to the actual farm once a month.  There are lots of farms where you can pick certain fruits and vegetables straight from the source during certain seasons.

After your kids know where their food comes from they need to learn how to prepare their food to eat.  We should teach our children to cook and eat whole foods and explain to them the difference between fresh meals and processed ones! If you don’t think you’re a good cook, it’s never too late to learn!  I learned how to really cook a few years shy of turning 30 and now I actually enjoy cooking (it’s the cleaning part I figured out I don’t like).   Start with simple recipes.  I have found that the best meals are always made from simple ingredients and a short list of ingredients at that.  There are so many great recipes out there.  Just pick a few and get started!  Baking  is another great way to get kids involved.  Baking with kids is always fun.  My little’s favorite thing to do in the kitchen is “mix, mix, mix, mix” and it is a great way to get really young kids involved in the kitchen!

If we teach our children about food from a young age and involve them in preparing and cooking their own food we are setting them up for a healthier way of life for the long haul.  We all want what’s best for our children, so help set them up for success and give them the food education they deserve.  You never know, you may just learn something in the process.

018 hummus

Summer Salad’s- 3 Bean Salad

I’ve been itching to try another summer salad.  My grocery budget money quickly thinned with the many trips I took to the store over the past week and I didn’t want to stop yet again for one or two ingredients, so I do what I do best and I looked at a few 3 Bean Salad recipes and I improvised with what I had on hand!

This is what I came up with:

1 Can of Garbanzo Beans (aka Chickpeas)
1 Can Kidney Beans
1 Can of Green Beans
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Dressing
1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of olive oil
4-5 TBSP Sugar
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp Pepper
1/4 Tsp garlic powder (although if I had a garlic clove you bet your butt I would have used it instead.)
(Really if I make this again though I would 1/2 the dressing recipe as I seemed to have quite a bit in access)

Rinse the heck out of all your canned beans.
Mix the beans and onion in a bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients, whisk until blended.
Pour dressing on beans and chill in the fridge.

Have I mentioned HOW EASY all these salads are?

3 Bean

Clean Eating Taco Salad

Instead if normal tacos we have been eating a taco salad version of tacos as of late. It’s delicious and simple, right up my alley and you can modify to include whatever veggies are a hit in your house.

In a skillet brown your meat (we use ground turkey but you could use ground beef, venison or whatever meat you like).  When the meat is browned add in Taco Seasoning and about 1/8-1/4 cup of water and let simmer for 10-20 minutes so the meat sucks up the flavor.  Add this point I also like to throw in onions, bell peppers and a can of black beans to the meat mixture.  I also boil some corn kernels while the meat is simmering.  While the food is stewing on the stove I grate some cheese and cut avocados and lettuce.  If I have any taco shells I’ll heat them up.  (If I don’t I just use tortilla chips.)

To put together make a bed of lettuce, add your meat mixture, the corn, then garnish with tomatoes, avocado and cheese.  We also throw Salsa (and maybe a little sour cream) in the mix to.  Crumble up some taco shells or tortilla chips for some crunch factor and Bam . . . Clean Taco Salad.

Easy, peasy.  Cheers and Happy Eating!

.002

Happy Dinners

My husband and I were discussing how enjoyable dinner has been lately.  One of the main reasons dinner has been enjoyable is that we have been working really hard at avoiding snacks before dinner with the little one.  I am not a snacker so this isn’t hard for me, but my husband likes to munch when he gets off of work. The little one has a snack in the car on the way home from school but if he get’s home and sees his Daddy eating he wants to try that snack out too!  If Daddy lets him then dinner can turn into a grumbly affair where the babe takes two bites and proclaims he’s “all done” and stands up in his chair waiting for us to take him out because he’s full on snacks and doesn’t want to eat anything else.

My husband and I had a discussion about snacking in front of the babe over a week ago.  Okay it wasn’t really a discussion it was a forced educational experience for my husband.  I pointed out to him what I just explained above.  He grumbled a little but also stated he understood.  I explained to my husband that he could still snack himself, he would just have to become stealthier about it and not let the babe see him snacking.

If you think institution of no snacks before dinner is easy, let me warn you it can be a little painful at times.  A few times the babe would go to the refrigerator or cupboard and ask for milk or a snack while I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. After his one after school snack I now have to tell him NO to any other snack (although I will let him steal a tomato, or a bite of cheese or other tidbit while I’m cooking if he’s “helping” me cook) .  I tell him no and he moves into totally meltdown mode with protests, crying, and laying on the kitchen floor. He is quite stubborn and sometimes these antics can last for quite a long while, but I try my hardest to mean No when I say No so I let him carry on with the world is ending routine.

I’ve also instituted dessert for the little one.  If he eats his dinner than he is allowed to have dessert which can be anything from a cupcake or cookie, to fruit or his current favorite yogurt raisins.  If he doesn’t eat a good portion of his dinner he does not get dessert.  I leave his dinner on the table for a while in case he had a bad night and if he asks for dessert I tell him he can’t have any because he didn’t eat his dinner, but if he’d like to eat some of his dinner then he can have dessert.  This usually does the trick and he will let me feed him what’s on his plate until I’m satisfied and hand over dessert.

These few little changes have made our dinner routine so much happier.  I challenge you to try for a week and see if it works for you too!

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Getting Your Child to Eat Well

One of the biggest challenges of parenting is getting your child to eat well.(Sometimes it’s just getting your child to eat at all!)  One of my sisters lived in France for a while and talked about the cultural differences between the United States and France which I found fascinating, so when I happened across a book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon (http://karenlebillon.com/) I immedietely checked it out from the library (and then bought it because I didn’t have time to finish reading the borrowed copy).  If you have a picky eater I highly recommend checking out this book!

In it you will find the 10 rules of eating:

french-food-rules-kids

1. Parents, You are in charge of Food Education!  Educate yourself about the food you are putting into your body.  Let your children know what they are eating!  Talk about what is in the meals you are making!  Teach the children how to cook!  Let them be involved!

2. Avoid Emotional Eating.  This is where I like to say you are not a dog, food is not a reward.

3. Parents Schedule Meals and Menus, KIDS EAT WHAT PARENTS EAT.  Okay, parents, this is where a lot of us go wrong.  Our children won’t eat what we make, so we get them something else.  Kids are pretty smart little creatures and if they have figured out that if they don’t eat their food you will make them a grilled cheese instead, they will repeatedly not eat their food to get to the grilled cheese sandwich.  Solution: Don’t make the grilled cheese sandwich.  The child can eat what’s on their plate, or they can NOT eat and NOT have a snack later.  I promise you your child will not starve by missing one or two meals here or there.  I recently pulled this with my own child.  He would not eat dinner and then wanted a candy (left over from Easter).  I told him he did not eat his dinner so he could not have a candy, but if he wanted to eat some of his dinner (that I had left out because he hadn’t eaten it) he could have a candy he proceeded to eat enough of his cold dinner to satisfy me and got his candy.  Dessert is fine if they eat their dinner but no dinner, no dessert which in this case was a childs size handful of mini M&M’s.

4. Eat Family Meals Together.  This is part of healthy families on so many levels!

5. Eat your Veggies.  Try to provide your child with a variety of vegetables, even try letting them pick some from the produce aisle that they want to try! You might be surprised in their choices.  (I have been known to get stuck buying an extra head of Broccoli if the babe is left within arms reach.  If I step away from the cart for the 5 seconds it takes to grab a different vegetable, I turn around and he has a head of broccoli up to his little mouth and is taking a big ole’ bite out if it. . . better add that to the cart. . .)

6. You don’t have to LIKE it but you do have to TRY it!  A women I worked with for a short while said in her house she had the rule of three.  You weren’t allowed to say you disliked a certain food until you had tried it at least three times.  I thought it sounded like fantastic advice.  (She was Canadian.)

7. No Snacking!  This is a hard one in my house as my husband is a big snacker. . .and it’s hard to tell the child NO when he sees you (or your spouse) snacking.  So I’ve told my husband if he must snack he needs to do it where the babe cannot see.  If the child snacks before dinner, getting him to eat dinner is a battle.  More often than not if he hasn’t snacked he is hungry at dinnertime and will eat dinner (He will also go from fine to starving in 2.2 seconds and have a meltdown when dinner has 5 minutes left to cook if it is not ready at exactly 6:30.)

8. Slow Food is Happy Food (and as my husband likes to say Happy Food tastes better).  Eat slowly, enjoy your meal.

9. East Mostly REAL FOOD. This means you might actually have to learn how to cook!  Processed foods have so many things in them that are so incredibly awful for us.  Try to eat mostly foods that don’t come in a packages.  Someone taught me a trick about staying on the outer rim of the grocery store  this is where you will find the veggies, fruits, meats, dairy; the processed foods tend to be in the aisles in the middle.  Limit your trips in the middle.

10. Relax. Again, Eat slowly, enjoy your meal, throw in some conversation and make it a time to enjoy your family and/or company.

Check out author Karen Le Billons website for recipes and tips or to buy her books French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum  http://karenlebillon.com/

(Illustration by Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything)