Salad Caprese
Deconstructed Shish Kabob


I read your comments on the 8-3 post and contemplated my whole chicken options. I have never beer canned a chicken before and my plan was to try that until I reached two snags: we had no cans (we recycled!) and I suddenly remembered that Patrick has started a tumbling class that meets at 5:30 on Monday nights. So I butterflied the chicken (take a pair of kitchen shears. cut along the backbone and remove spine. flatten with your hands) and left it with Steve to grill while I took Patrick to his class. My intention was to then take Patrick grocery shopping with me after tumbling as we were facing critical shortages and Steve was not available the next day to help me shop with three kids. I made it as far as the store parking lot (with Patrick moaning about how tiiiiiired he was and how hoooooot and how he doubted he had the strength to make it down an aisle) when I discovered that I had left my wallet on my desk. So I took Patrick home and left him for Steve to feed while I went back out to grocery shop alone. I got home at 9:30. It kinda sucked.

Thus on Monday we wound up eating: shell pasta and cooked carrots (Caroline and Edward;) cheese and crackers and turkey sandwich meat and spinach leaves with balsamic vinaigrette and ice cream (Patrick;) grilled chicken legs and sauteed wild mushrooms (Steve;) and ice cream and wine (that would be me.)

Tuesday I stripped and chopped the chicken. I intended to saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic in butter and then add flour and chicken stock to create something like a pot pie filling with peas and the leftover chicken that I could serve over egg noodles. By the time dinner actually rolled around I said to hell with it and made chicken and cheese quesadillas. I pulled out half the chicken and heated it with a can of Ro*tel tomatoes for everyone but Patrick; then I discovered that Caroline and Edward are not quite ready for chiles either. Oh well. Plain quesadillas for the seven and unders.

Wednesday we still had leftover chicken so I again considered the noodle thing but again I ditched the idea for something easier. This time I opened a jar of spaghetti sauce* to which I added garlic sauteed in olive oil, fresh basil, a ton of grated parmesan and the finely chopped chicken. The proportions were about 2 cups of chicken to 1 cup of sauce so that it was quite thick. We had it over rotini and there was leftover sauce.

Today we had friends to play in the morning and I had an epiphany at lunchtime. I looked at the chicken and tomato sauce and a package of flour tortillas and created pizzadillas (I have no doubt that someone has thought of this before me but I felt wildly creative.)

Can I call this a recipe?

1 1/2 c leftover cooked chicken mixed with marinara sauce
large flour tortillas
handful of shredded mozzarella

A little cooking spray on a hot skillet, press together, melt, flip, cut, serve.

Note: Patrick, who refused to eat the chicken on rotini the night before, ate this and said it was delicious. Ha! I learned a little while ago that cheese freezes really well so I keep 8 ounce bags of shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella in my freezer all the time. Today I whacked the bag to loosen the frozen shreds and then put the still frozen cheese on the quesadilla. Took an extra minute to melt.

My friend Noelle pointed out that we could use the same starting point and go in all kinds of crazy directions, like lamb feta and black olives for a greekadilla or Swiss cheese and diced ham for a lorraineadilla. 

Any other thoughts?

* I have no problem using jarred/canned/frozen anything as long as it tastes good to me. However, I have yet to find a jarred spaghetti sauce that I like - they are all too sweet for my taste - so I usually prefer to make and freeze my own. I still keep trying different jarred sauces, though, because it would be really nice to have one to keep on hand in the pantry and I see no reason to martyr myself. This week I tried Newman's Fired Roasted Tomato and Garlic. I didn't love it straight from the jar but with the chicken and the basil and the cheese and the extra garlic it was ok.


I am enjoying this new blog very much. If you have a chance, could you please post the tomato sauce recipe you like best? Thanks!

i love this new blog of yours! i have the same request as above - what is your fave recipe for spagetti sauce or pasta sauce?

Absolutely. I'd be happy to post them.

hi - just stopping by for the first time. so glad you're doing this! i've had fun trying the recipes you posted way back when. must tell you that the beer can chicken thing needs a full can of beer... well, w/ a few sips removed. we don't usually do cans so we keep a few around for this purpose. it's kinda silly but fun and it really does work (moist chicken) and better than paying $40 for the apparatus sold in williams & sonoma... thanks for freezing cheese tip. sounds like a winner.

I prefer to make my own pasta sauce (large batches for freezing) but recently discovered Lucini Rustic Tomato Basil Sauce. It has no sugar added at all but isn't bitter either. I still prefer to make my own but this stuff is a great jarred option. I find myself buying more jars instead of making another batch of pasta sauce now that we have gone through all that was frozen. Just can't stand the thought of hours of cooking during the summer months.

I like to use leftover chicken to make fried rice. (This works well even with boiled chicken that was used for making broth).
3 eggs - scramble in wok and set aside.
1 finely chopped onion - fry 'till quite brown in same wok and set aside.
while onion is frying, defrost 1.5 cups of green peas in microwave and separate left-over chicken into bite-size pieces.
4 cups cooked rice - fry in same wok for a couple of minutes.
Add everything to the rice in the wok: the eggs, onions, peas and chicken.
Add soy sauce to taste. S&P too, if you want.

Easy and works well with half of my picky eaters and all of my good eaters.

i've gotten hooked on barilla pasta sauce - especially the spicy pepper (used to be arrabiatta, but they just changed he named to, i think, spicy pepper. could be wrong though.) it's not really spicy, but not sweet. a nice happy medium.

I'm really enjoying your new blog! Sometimes it's hard to find the inspiration to keep cooking "real" dinners when the little guys are suspicious of anything new. Trying new recipes is the fun part of of cooking!

Rao's has some great sauces - Arrabiatta in particular.

What I usually do if I am stuck for time (and with cooking duties) is to take a jarred sauce (Muir Glenn/Seeds of Change/Etc), add an extra can of tomato paste and then splash in vodka and whatever other ingredients I have within reach.

There is something about vodka and what it does to tomatoes that is sublime.

Second the fried rice with the chicken. I found a packaged "fried rice" seasoning mix without MSG at my Sm'AC-ME that gives it an authentic taste.
For my picky eaters, I have found that Barilla's jarred "marinara sauce" is acceptable (no visible vegetable bits) and not too sweet. Do you add a tablespoon of coffee to cut the acidity?
I also make a black bean chili that's really tasty and can be made from leftovers and canned stuff. Freezes well.
Finally, I have found that a cheesy zucchini and sausage bake (also below) goes over well with kids if you cut the zucchini and onions up tiny and make sure they are well browned instead of squishy before adding. There's something about the combination of the sausage and zucchini that is fragrant and heavenly.

1 3/4 lbs. skinned, boned chicken cut in sm. chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
(1/2 diced small mildy hot green pepper – optional )
4 cloves garlic or to taste, chopped fine
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. or to taste chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans stewed tomatoes (proportions depending on family taste)
(you can also substitute or add some chopped canned or fresh tomatoes for texture)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa dissolved in tablespoon of coffee (decaf) or of beer
Saute chicken with onions, pepper, garlic and seasonings and add everything else. Or add leftover chicken to everything else and simmer until it tastes good.

* package of uncooked small penne
* 8 ounces (or more) sweet Italian sausage
* 5 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
* 2 cups diced onion (about 1)
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
* 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (or fontina)
* 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta in boiling water 5 minutes, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Remove casings from sausage and cook in skillet until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan. Heat oil in pan. Add zucchini, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and zucchini begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
Combine broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute. (If you like, you can substitute cream for the broth and flour. You can also add tomatoes to this -- your oven roasted ones would work wonderfully.) Combine zucchini mixture, pasta, sausage, and feta cheese in a large bowl; toss well. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Oh, and of course you could substitute chicken for the sausage in the zucchini-penne bake. Or chicken sausage.

Jarred sauces:

I like my own sauce best too. Hate them too sweet or too acidic. But I've found 2 Newman sauces that meet my criteria. The Tomato & Basil Bombolina and the Cabernet Marinara are both pretty good.

I'm with everybody who wants your sauce recipe. Post! Post!

We use Barilla Olive Oil and Garlic spaghetti sauce and love it. I'm also sensitive to "too sweet" tomato sauces and it isn't sweet at all. Plus it saves the cutting-the-garlic step.

Thirding the request for your pasta sauce recipe. My husband and I have serious pasta saucing issues - he loves alfredo (I don't), I love almost any kind of red sauce (he doesn't), and we both enjoy pesto (sometimes). Pesto gets very, very boring after a while. A red sauce that doesn't taste too sweet might just win him over, since that's his biggest issue with marinara and the like.

Oh, and I'm loving this blog, too!

The other references to fried rice reminded me of the post I wrote not too long ago about the same topic -

And on the topic of chicken again - I also have a post about chicken and broccoli -

Actually, compared to Julia's writing, my "recipes" might be construed as messy and rather roundabout. But they're there for anyone interested in more chicken related reading.

And about the pasta sauce, my husband and I like Classico Traditional - Marinara and plum tomatoes, found in packs of 3 jars from Costco. (I'm guessing you might go there too, judging by familiarity of toddler pajama prints.) :)

I use leftover chicken for enchiladas. Mix with a little rotel (or not) and roll with white corn tortillas (I "cook" mine in hot oil so they don't break). Then mix a can of cream of chicken soup with sour cream. Pour, bake, cover with a white cheese and the boys are happy.

Wordsmith that you are, I thought you'd be amused to know another term for how you butterflied your chicken: spatchcock. Isn't that a great word? Too rarely do I get a chance to work that one into conversation...

Like the new blog, BTW.

My meals this week included: 1) ground pork and beef spaghetti with parmesan, pecorino and my speedy homemade marinara, served with sauteed zuchinni, yellow onion, garlic, and rosemary 2) oyster mushroom thin crust pizza with gruyere and tuffle oil and a spinach salad with citrus dressing, shallots, bacon, tomatoes, walnuts 3) turkey burgers with muenster cheese, balsamic caramelized onions, beefsteak tomatoes, red onion, and a pesto mayonnaise, served with sautéed asparagus with lemon pepper 4) chicken enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce, served with pan grilled corn and black bean warm salsa. Lunches always consists of leftovers or homemade chicken salad with grapes, celery, green onion, tarragon, and dijon mustard which I make weekly.

I am now completely aware of why I am "battling the buldge". =) Thanks for the new blog, Julia!

I am loving this blog.

I have a serious question for you, noting that you list things as being "for" different people; my pediatrician (whom I generally like and find reasonably sensible) has advised me to feed our son (age 2) "what we eat." Now this advice has several advantages ... first and most important, it reminds me of a cartoon that will pop up immediately if you go to the New Yorker cartoon bank and search on "huge fan of the spicier dishes." Second, I do get it: I'm not supposed to be a short-order cook.

OK. And my son has to date been a pretty good eater. But still ... several problems with her advice. One, she has no idea what we eat. Mightn't it be wise to ask? Two, yeah, OK. I should expose him to an array of foods and, again, not be a short-order cook. But (see, one) ... really? Buffalo wings, ranch dressing, and celery sticks (for example)? What are the odds?

In terms of how we, personally, have dealt with this "advice," so far, we've compromised. He gets what we eat. Sometimes he gets a little something we don't. Always he's welcome to eat toast, cheese, or fruit instead of dinner (for the record, he's on the scrawny side, so I don't want to deprive him of comfort foods).

Anyway, I'd be interested in your thoughts on this recommended approach to feeding children.

We do pizzadillas, too - usually with turkey-roni and mozzarella. I'm also fond of pestodillas (pesto and mozzarella). You can also use the tortilla as a crust without folding the pizza over - top as desired and bake on a cookie sheet. Looooove tortillas around here, particularly the ones you buy uncooked. Sooooo good.

I like your new blog, too! More Julia to go around...

I don't like sweet red sauces either, and I had a problem with the name at first, but give me a bogo combined with a coupon and I'll try just about anything. Ragu Organic Garden Vegie. It not bad and a good starting point sauce for adding things to, if necessary. So far, the twins (and DH & I) eat it straight up with Trader Joe's meatballs and some shredded mozz and parm, but I may start experimenting more to get back into the kitchen. They like mushrooms, so maybe I'll start with that.

You've got to try Rao's...once you go to Rao's there's no going back to any other bottled sauce. Homemade, yes, but bottled, no. As someone else said, the Arrabiatta is very good.

No Trader Joe's in the Twin Cities? Their organic Marinara and tomato and basil with garlic (or without) all taste of fresh tomatoes. Not quite Italian vine ripe tomatoes, they're American type and a bit puckery, but much fresher than anything else in a jar, organic, at the price of Prego (cheaper actually).

I love Trader Joes. Memories of my childhood. Strange to take my kids there now.

I sometimes make "quesadillas" with just peanut butter or peanut butter and banana. The peanut butter ones are great served with sliced apples.

Tomato sauce recipes, please! i have been laboring over tomato sauce for the last 24 hours (in bursts). How do you thicken it up? Do you start with canned tomatoes? I used fresh, and it's delicious, but too watery...

Agree heartily with those above who recommend Rao's sauce. The ingredient list on their "Marinara" version reads:
- imported Italian tomatoes
- imported olive oil
- fresh onions
- salt
- fresh garlic
- fresh basil
- black pepper
- oregano

It's very good stuff....local to New York...may be hard to get in your neck of the woods?

Have you tried San Marzano marinara?

Not sure if you're a Food Network watcher, but it's the jarred sauce that Giada (Everyday Italian) uses.

I have tried Rao's too (similar price point), but prefer San Marzano.

I am really liking this sub blog. You are very creative!

A pasta sauce I really like from the jar is Target's Archer Farms Sun Dried Tomato. It is a tinsy jar but super thick so I would imagine for a larger family, some extra tomato juice/paste/fresh tomatoes mixed in would be in order.

Love the new blog! I believe I got some of my first toddler food inspiration from you a few years ago.

I'm facing a bumper crop of tomatoes from my CSA, so I'd love your recipe for sauce that I can freeze. Pretty please???

I have a new sauce that I love. It's Emeril's Marinara Sauce. It's soooooo tasty, I won't use anything but this from now on.

Canned and jarred sauces - yuck. Usually too sweet or too bland. We buy these big bottles of strained tomatoes, imported from Italy, and add our own spices, onion and garlic. Voila.

I want to know what you're packing in Patrick's lunchbox when school starts! Love the new blog!!!

Hey Julia,

The All-Clad non-stick 12" covered fry pan is on sale at Williams Sonoma for $99. I own it (at a much higher price) and we love it. We also love our cast iron, tho.

We got the Emeril's sauces at the commissary over here a couple of months ago. I really liked the kicked up tomato sauce (I, too am very picky about my tomato sauce;) It figures that since I found a jarred sauce that I liked they would stop carrying it. It's times like this when I miss living in the US.

Try the Patsy's sauces. The restaurant is in NYC, but you can for sure mail order the sauces (I send them as gifts all the time).

Rao's is good too.

A recipe for leftover chicken or turkey that the entire family raves over (and that has ZERO nutritional value) is one my mom invented after Thanksgiving one year. It just a white sauce, add turky, serve over toast.

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
1 cup of milk

Melt the butter, stir in flour, sloooowly mix in the milk. Heat and stir until the sauce starts to thicken, dump in chopped chicken or turkey. Heat through. Serve over toast. Obviously adjust the recipe to ensure there is enough for the entire family. I usually end up using 12/12 Tbs & 6 cups of milk.

If you are going to butterfly a chicken, here is a great potato recipe to go with it.
Wash (don't peel) some yellow (or white) potatoes. Cut into 1 inch disks and parboil them. Toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and into the bottom of a broiler pan or casserole . Put the butterflyed chicken on a wire rack or broiler lid on top of the potatoes. Put it into a 400F oven for 1 hour until the chicken cooks. The drippings from the chicken flavor the potatoes.

Do you have a Trader Joe's nearby? I like their canned marinara sauce well enough. It doesn't hold a candle to my mother in law's sauce, but it's pretty good.

Have you considered having your groceries delivered? I assume you have, as you're busy and savvy, and have 3 children, but just in case you hadn't thought of it recently...

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