Those Lazy Days of Summer

Those lazy, hazy days of summer have arrived! School is officially out. The days are lighter longer. And everyone starts to think about what to do with their extra time. Sigh, doesn’t everyone still long for a 3 month summer vacation? I was challenged this week to come up with a “kid friendly” menu. From what I hear, there are 2 challenges to a “kid friendly” meal. One – meals that kids like usually have little appeal for the grown-ups making them. Two – their palettes seem to run to meals containing little to no nutritional value. So, I played around a little, drawing from memories of some of my favorite childhood meals and from the knowledge I have gained along the way about food nutrition to come up with ideas.

Some of my favorite memories as child come from visiting my aunt Carole. While I love all of my aunts equally, my aunt Carole and I have always seemed to share a lot of the same interests and aptitudes. She truly has the gift of hospitality. Memories of visits to her house seem to be centered around the kitchen and meal time. (Plus she loved horses!) I can remember big tubs of tri-flavored popcorn when she lived somewhere very cold, blueberries and real cream (my first taste ever) when she lived in Louisiana, a salad with fresh flowers on it (so pretty – but not too tasty) when she lived somewhere in
North Carolina (maybe), and my first bite of fresh lobster dipped in drawn butter at a fancy steakhouse somewhere… That’s just to name a few.

She also spent a lot of time cooking for us too. She is a wonderful and creative cook. I remember fluffy scrambled eggs that she puffed up in the oven, gooey cinnamon rolls and many delicious dinners. There is one dinner in particular that I remember very clearly. I think it made an impression on me because not only did I like it, but I remember my mom finding it yummy and clever and asking for the recipe. It was a baked chicken dish that she made with cheez- its. So, being a meal that grown-ups enjoy, I had to incorporate that dish into my kid-friendly menu, of course!

To test out my “the kids are home for the summer what new things can I make for them?” menu I invited my friends, the Dale’s, over for dinner. They are always willing guinea pigs! And I knew their 2-year-old son, Isaac would make a darling test subject. I also invited Jonathan, his roommate Evan and my new PR intern, Bonnie. I figured the best way to test the effectiveness of the menu was to cook for adults and kids, alike. I ended up creating a “pizza” that hides lots of veggies. I used it as an appetizer for the adults and a main meal for my little friend, Isaac. Younger kids tend to eat earlier than adults, so I thought this might be a great way to eat a little something with your tiny ones before putting them to bed and enjoying a more “adult friendly” meal later.

We had fun talking and eating together and, thankfully, Isaac seemed to approve of all of the dishes. We pushed his bedtime to the max, but he even ate the chicken! (His mom has a hard time getting him to eat meat). I’m not sure that Isaac will remember this meal at my table, but I know there will be many more to come. I can’t help but wonder what his memories of me will be… I hope you guys have fun with these recipes and that they become the base for delicious memories in your family.

Cheez-it Chicken

1 pkg of chicken breasts (I sometime use chicken tenders)
1 box Cheez-it crackers
1-16 oz container of sour cream
1 Cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper

1. Put the flour into a shallow bowl
2. Pour the box of cheez-its into a heavy duty gallon Ziploc bag. Crush the cheez-its into crumbs using a meat mallet or heavy bottle

3. Put the sour cream into a shallow bowl
4. Season the raw chicken with salt and pepper
5. Lightly coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
6. Drop the chicken, one by one, into the flour lightly coating the meat

7. Then, drag both sides of the chicken through the sour cream, coating it thoroughly.
8. Drop the coated chicken into the bag of crushed crackers and shake the bag until the chicken is
completely covered.
9. Place the “battered” chicken into the baking dish
10. Repeat until all of the chicken is in the dish.
11. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked and the coating is lightly
browned and toasted.

“You’d Never Know” Pizza

1 Cup bottled or homemade marinara sauce
1 Cup canned red kidney beans
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Cups fresh spinach
1 bunch of fresh broccoli, washed and cut into small florets (no stems)
12” flour tortillas
Large package of shredded pizza cheese
1 small bag of pepperoni (if desired)
1 roll of regular sausage

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat
2. Add the garlic and let it cook until fragrant (1 minute or so)
3. Add the fresh spinach in batches as it wilts and there is space.
4. Add the broccoli. Salt and pepper the veggies
5. Let it all cook until the spinach is wilted and the broccoli starts to soften (about 7 minutes)
6. Meanwhile, pour the marinara sauce and the kidney beans into a food processor or blender and
process until smooth. You may have to do this in batches if your processor is small

7. Add the cooked veggies and puree them until smooth, being sure to incorporate the tomato
sauce well. This is going to be your pizza sauce! It should be thick, but not chunky.
8. If you are going to make a sausage pizza, cook the sausage in the same skillet you used for the
veggies. Cook it until it is cooked through and crumbly.
9. Place a tortilla onto a cookie sheet or pizza pan
10. Spread some pizza sauce over a 12”tortilla, leaving a ½” border all the way around. (this recipe
will make enough sauce for 4-5 pizzas. You can freeze the leftover sauce if you don’t want to
make that many)
11. If adding meat, cover the pizza sauce with the cooked, crumbled sausage (1 package will cover
2 pizzas) or with the pepperoni. Top all of that with cheese. (1- 1 1/2 Cups) Add as much or as
little as you like.

12. Pop your pizza into a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted

Cut into pieces and enjoy! You can always top this pizza with whatever toppings you choose. It
is easy to customize. Everyone can make their own. The sauce is full of vitamins and protein
and very little fat. It freezes well and can be used as a pasta sauce too. Just heat and pour over
spaghetti!

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