Tag: family’

Healthy baked chicken tenders

 - by Sarah Lipoff

There’s nothing like a go-to chicken dinner recipe and this is totally my favorite.  Along with being delicious, this chicken recipe takes hardly any time to make — and is also healthy.

Cut the fuss and muss, along with an oil-spattered kitchen, by baking these chicken tenders in a hot oven. Easily tossed together in less than 30-minutes of cooking time, these tenders are perfect for a family friendly weeknight dinner. I serve with a crisp, green salad for the adults, along with some tasty yogurt Alfredo noodles for the tot (and, yeah, for us adults too). And just a quick tip — using a really good plain yogurt (Mountain High)  ensures you get seriously tender crispy chicken along with great tangy flavor. Go with a Greek-style or thick plain yogurt for best results.

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenders

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon mustard

Dash salt and pepper

1/2 cup corn starch

1 cup Panko crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or vegetable or coconut…)

What you do

Toss the chicken tenders in a plastic bag along with the yogurt and mustard. Give things a dash of salt and pepper and toss in the fridge for at least 20-minutes or up to an hour. If you like things spicy, add a few drops of your favorite hot sauce.

Mix together the corn starch and panko crumbs in another big zip-top baggie. Sprinkle in the Italian seasoning and you are ready to shake. Corn starch has less calories than white flower and crisps up wonderfully. You could also use whole-wheat  or almond flour instead.

Preheat your oven to 425˚F and drizzle the oil around a sheet pan. Take the happily marinated chicken from the fridge, toss a few at a time in the corn starch/flour and panko mixture, and then place on the sheet pan. Keep going until all are coated and ready to go.

Once coated, place on the sheet pan. Try not to cluster, which causes the tenders to steam and kind of turn out like mush. For extra crispiness, place the oil-coated sheet pan in the oven for a couple of minutes before adding the tenders. They’ll hit the pan with a sizzle, which is awesome.

Pop the chicken tenders in the oven and toast for 7 to 10-minutes and then flip. If your pan seems a bit dry, drizzle a bit more oil to help your chicken crisp. Cook for another 7 to 10-minutes, or until the other side is nicely browned.

This recipe makes enough to serve a happy family of four. 

*And I just made them again (1/20/14) and these tenders are still so good. A couple tips — use a non-stick baking pan, go ahead and crank the oven to 450˚F for a really crispy crust, and trust your oven! Don’t fuss and muss. Let them bake for seven to 10-minutes before flipping to ensure the crust doesn’t fall off and the coating is super crispy.

*Oh, and I wasn’t compensated by Mountain High in any way. I just absolutely love their product.

 

 

 

Celebrate Thanksgivikkah with a gingerbread menorah

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop Gingerbread Menorah

Well, if you haven’t heard, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have melded together into Thanksgivikkah. And there’s no better way to celebrate than with a gingerbread menorah. I discovered this wonderful melding of deliciousness through Sweet Thrills Bakeshop, a collaboration of two Bay Area moms who believe the kitchen is the heart of the home and that sweet treats make everyone smile.

These smart ladies are packaging chocolate gingerbread menorah kits that are perfect for families to build and decorate together. The unique idea sparked from spinning the dreidel with a traditional gingerbread house in the background. The result? A sweet twist on celebrating Hanukkah — and a great way to create special memories with your kids.

I was so excited to get my hands on a box and make one with my tot. Yes, probably even more than she was. Included in the kit was everything needed to assemble the menorah, including a wonderfully detailed set of directions, helpful tips, and educational information about Hannukkah, making this kit fitting for any family.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop

My daughter jumped right in and loved assembling the menorah. In fact, she was pretty much able to follow the drawn directions on her own (while I snuck a few candies that were included in the kit). What’s great about the kit is that along with being creative, your child is learning about construction and design.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop gingerbread

As it states in the directions, it’s important to let the the frosting set between steps, but we found ways to entertain ourselves while waiting. We enjoyed reading the included information about Hanukkah, counted the candy candles, and, of course, had to sample the frosting.

My daughter really took her time working on her special menorah and we have it proudly displayed on our mantel. She loves telling us how she made it all by herself.

sweet thrills bakeshop menorah

Which she really did.

Sweet Thrills Bakeshop has two different sized unassembled menorahs as well as a mini pre-assembled menorah available this season. Order now to ensure your kit arrives on time. We’re looking forward to enjoying our menorah during our Thanksgivikkah celebration!

And, did I mention? They’re delicious.

*Just so you know, I am actually friends with one of the co-owners of Sweet Thrills Bakeshop and volunteered to do this review simply because I think this chocolate gingerbread menorah kit is seriously awesome. And delicious. And a fantastic idea.

Vacation (and what happens when there’s no WiFi)

 - by Sarah Lipoff

We spent the week at the beach enjoying the hub’s home digs. It was the first visit for the tot, and was packed with meeting relatives, actually getting into the warmer East Coast ocean, and walking the boardwalk. Along with having someone to meet or somewhere to go the entire trip, the cool pad we stayed at wasn’t equipped with WiFi. At first I panicked. How was I going to check and see what was happening on Twitter? How to share on Facebook? I might need to see what was hot on Pinterest, catch up with celeb gossip, search for a recipe, check Twitter, update my Facebook, check my website stats, check Twitter….

Yeah.

It was awesome to have a break from it all and just be. Even though we had a bit of bad weather, the sunny days and great visits with relatives and friends made it a seriously memorable trip. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our vacation (thanks to the husband – although I did happen to snag the camera and snap a few of him too).

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And, if you’re not a relative or friend that knows where we spent our vacation, extra credit if you can name our destination in a comment below….

 

Cooking with kids: Grilled cheese turkey pesto casserole

 - by Sarah Lipoff

turkey pesto grilled cheese casserole
Now that the days are getting longer, we’re making a big attempt at eating family dinner. Yeah, I’ve made two dinners a night for the last few years, but it’s (amazingly) worked out just fine. I make something fun and healthy with the tot and then something a bit more sophisticated for the adults once she goes to bed. Over the last few weeks it’s quickly become apparent this schedule will no longer work. This means a big adjustment to my recipes, creating kid-friendly and adult faire that’s delicious for everyone.

This recipe is wonderfully easy, can even be prepped ahead of time, and is a perfect diner to make with your kids. And it’s easily adjustable to your family’s liking. Swap prosciutto or sliced roast chicken for the turkey, sprinkle in some pepper jack, or layer on a few roasted red peppers. The results are delicious, healthy, and on the table in less than an hour.

Ingredients

Butter

4 slices whole wheat bread

1/2 pound roast turkey

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/4 cup pesto

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 tablespoon water

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon grainy mustard

Hot sauce (optional)

Salt

Pepper

Directions

Place the pesto, water, and fresh spinach and pulse until it’s nice and smooth. Place in a small bowl for your child to use later. Now offer your child a lightly greased (with butter) 8 x 11-inch casserole dish and invite her to layer the bottom with two slices of bread. Sure, you can use white bread, but whole wheat is just a bit healthier. Artisan bread would be absolutely delicious, or mix it up with rye or sourdough. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 375˚F so it’s nice and hot when you’re ready.

Making turkey pesto

Offer your child the pesto along with a small spoon and invite her to scoop and spread the sauce evenly over the slices. Try to reserve half of the pesto sauce for use later…

Cooking with kids

Next, it’s time for the cheese and turkey. Once again, try to reserve half for later… And it’s okay to taste test along the way.

Turkey pesto

Top with the remaining slices of bread, and another layer of the pesto sauce, turkey, and shredded cheese. In a small mixing bowl, add the eggs, milk, grainy mustard, and a touch of hot sauce. You can also add a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Give things a good whisking and then pour over the casserole, pressing the tops of the bread with a spatula as needed to coat the slices.

Making turkey casserole

Place in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the tops of the slices are nicely browned. It’s as simple as slicing and serving! Finish the meal with a side salad and you’re good to go.

Turkey pesto casserole

Yum!

The Birch Aquarium

 - by Sarah Lipoff

While we were down south, there were a couple of days the weather wasn’t right for hitting the beach, so we explored the area for a few fun things to do. And we found ourselves heading to La Jolla for a stroll through the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego Birch Aquarium.

BirchAquarium1

I enjoyed the informative guides lurking (well, not lurking, but roaming in the darkness of the aquarium) and ready to answer any questions or share fun tidbits of information. We all became quite intrigued with the eels in the above left photo, and were told all about their amazing lives together (yup, that’s a proud mama and papa), how they’ve produced hundreds of baby eels, and are often found nestled together in the tank. But the collection of jellyfish just about put my tot in a tizzy…

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Located next to each tank are helpful plaques sharing facts about the fish and other sea life, perfect for us adults that have no clue what we’re looking and then can utterly amaze our not-yet-scholarly tots by reading (without them realizing it) bountiful information about the amazing sea creatures.  And it’s great for older kids, allowing them the opportunity to learn more on their own. We loved this huge tank filled with coastal sea life.

BirchAquarium3

And part of the aquarium is dedicated to educational and interactive learning about the sea and California coastline. Most of it was totally advanced for our daughter, but that didn’t stop her from putting her hands on everything.

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But the seahorses stole the show. We were all impressed and amazed by these little creatures. A whole wing is dedicated to educating the public about the lives of seahorses, sharing how the aquarium is helping to nurture and build their numbers, and showcasing the amazing beauty of the cool sea animal.

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And we had such a great time, we ended up walking (well, running) through the aquarium one last time at the tot’s insistence to see it all over again. Along with the indoor tanks, the Birch Aquarium has outdoor interactive tide pools, a shark tank (not interactive), and some really cool solar activities for the kids to check out. Perfect for kids of all ages, the aquarium has something for everyone, is easy to navigate, has a small outdoor snack bar on site, a gift shop, and wonderfully friendly staff. If you’re in the La Jolla/San Diego area, it’s a fun way to spend an overcast day.

*If you’re not from the area, please, PLEASE, make sure to have directions before you head out to La Jolla. No joke, every time we go to La Jolla from the north, we get lost. It’s really not crazy difficult or anything, there are just a few twists and turns that can catch you by surprise.

 

Picnic under the Golden Gate Bridge

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Today was awesome. We hit our local farmers market, splurged on goodies, and decided to head out for a picnic. Our plans were to meander around Muir Woods and then enjoy a picnic at Muir Beach, or on the lawn at the Pelican Inn, but we totally spaced on the fact that it is LABOR DAY WEEKEND, which means everyone in the area has plans to do the same thing. So, after a long drive (that should have only taken minutes), we decided to turn tail and head to another spot and see what might happen.

Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge next to the Discovery Museum (which is also awesome!) is a marina and pier surrounding Fort Baker. We snagged one of the very few picnic tables and enjoyed eating all our goodies while waiting for the bridge to pop through the rolling fog. After a leisurely lunch we strolled the pier to see if anyone had snagged some crabs or tasty fish.

There’s no fee to check this area out and, if you’re brave, you can stroll along the bike path all the way up to the bridge and then walk the span. This is a popular area for tourists that rent bikes, so be ready to battle for walking space. But the views are spectacular, and if you’re coming from north of San Francisco, it’s basically free.

*I’d love to take credit for these pictures but I actually only took the first one, but my husband took the rest.

 

Healthful Mondays – Eating with your kids

 - by Sarah Lipoff

yogurt fettuccine

Things have been seriously crazy over here. I had an awesome job interview last week, the tot and I spent lots of wonderful quality time together (now that we stopped going to the preschool), and I made the big decision to have us start eating dinner together every night. What we had done was I fed our daughter dinner around 5 or so. Then, when the hubs arrived home at 6 – 6:30-ish, he’d have one-on-one time with her until bedtime at 7:30. But, by that time, she was out of control, not fun, and my husband wasn’t having any sort of quality time with her at all. Then, after we put the tot to bed, I’d cook dinner (and have a drink) and we’d have adult dinner around 8:30.

Exhausting.

Since stopping the preschool (another story for another time) the tot’s behavior has been better, but we still seemed to be running into a bit of trouble during the last few hours of her day. And the two dinner thing wasn’t working. I decided we’d try eating all together around 6:30. I figured she’s old enough to start sitting with us while eating, and we’re old enough that we really should be eating much earlier in the evening, so we tried it for the entire week.

Some nights were better than others.

I’ll be honest, by the weekend I’d decided I needed a break, so the tot  enjoyed peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches (her new favorite) while I cooked our adult dinners that we enjoyed after she went down for the night.

The highlight? *Creamy yogurt fettuccine! Along with a more enjoyable time together in the evenings, our toddler loves setting out napkin placemats for us, learning more about table manners, and assisting with dinner clean-up!

yogurt fettuccine for toddlers

Eating together as a family has so many benefits, including an opportunity to really chat together about everyone’s day, and studies show eating family meals encourage healthy eating habits, better school performance, and positive behavior. I grew up in a family that ate together every night, which was sometimes seriously annoying as a teenager, but it worked. I sulked my way through many a dinner, but deep down I valued that time together with my family. Even after my sister had gone off to college, I sat down to eat with my parents most nights of the week.

On a side note, I had a tragedy over the weekend. My laptop crashed. This was seriously traumatic for me – resulting in a bit of crying and some serious brooding. Wonderfully, it was an $80 fix, but I lost everything on the computer. Everything. I hadn’t backed-up my pictures in months, resulting in hundreds and hundreds of lost pictures. Yes, I take a lot of pictures, and, now that I’ve got the fancy phone, many are on the phone, but I’m still a bit sad over what’s not there anymore. I got a seriously wrist slapping from the husband about how I hadn’t backed up. All I’m saying is invest in a small hard drive, or get yourself set up with a back-up system, and back your stuff up! This way if your computer decides to take a dive you won’t lose your precious stuff.

Seriously.

Do it now.

(It was also my birthday and my husband bought me a cake – and lots of chocolate)

Happy Monday!

*I’ll share the recipe for yogurt fettuccine later in the week….

 

A rainy day in La Jolla

 - by Sarah Lipoff

We decided to head out on an adventure because the weather wasn’t going to be too wonderful, which meant it wasn’t going to be a vacation beach day. Just down the way is the town of La Jolla, and we’d heard good things. With a museum, an aquarium, cute shops and restaurants, plus cliffs and beaches, it seemed like the perfect destination for a rainy day in Southern California.

When you have a toddler, things always take a bit longer than you expect. After loading up the car, getting everyone and everything together, we got a later start than planned. So, once we actually found (yes, we got lost along the way) La Jolla, it was time for some lunch before attempting any sort of adventure. We stumbled upon The Spot amidst the wind and looming clouds and cozied up in a corner booth.

Um, yum.

This place was perfect for a family lunch, with reasonably priced options and a friendly atmosphere. I ordered the blue cheese covered lamb burger (medium rare, thank you very much) and it was amazing. After we had all noshed down our food, we made our way through town – quickly – before the rain started coming down. Then we jumped in the car and enjoyed from there.

All in all?

Great day.

And, we’ll be heading back for another fun-filled time in La Jolla to check out the aquarium – on a day when it’s not going to rain…

 

It’s been a bit crazy

 - by Sarah Lipoff

These last couple of weeks have been nutso. My parents have been staying with us (and we delayed Christmas by almost a week), the tot turned 3, I totally bombed in this Food Network competition, the husband hired a life coach, and I tried to maintain some sort of work ethic during the whole thing. We even had a date night.

Things went fairly well….

I guess.

There’s so much to do in the Bay Area, but when you’ve got a toddler, things get pretty limited. Sure, the idea of hitting North Beach sounds fab, but trying to navigate those itty-bitty sidewalks with a mega stroller (and an ornery tot) isn’t really that fun. So we kept things pretty simple and did stuff close to home that made us all happy. Here are the highlights…

I made the final 3 in the Hidden Valley Ranch Ultimate Lunchbox Challenge!

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Okay, remember awhile back when I shared how I put together this little video sharing my Turkey Tortilla Sushi recipe for a chance to be on the Cooking Channel via the Hidden Valley Ranch Ultimate Lunchbox Challenge? Well, guess what? I’m in the running! (that’s me over on the right!)

They’ve picked the final three contestants and I’m one of them!

(Yes, I’m using lots and lots of exclamation marks!)

Show me some love and head on over to check out the competition as well as revisit my recipe for Turkey Tortilla Sushi. The winner is partly determined by how many votes the video gets – so vote for me once daily until December 27th.

The winner will be announced January 9th!

(I’m so excited!)

Here’s what it the finished lunchbox creation looks like:

Thanks for your support!