I have an addiction to collecting cookbooks, which is weird, cause I so seldom use them. I might flip through them and get some ideas, but usually a recipe gets modified on paper before I ever put it to the stove. I don’t like using convenience foods that are full of junk ingredients, and it seems that this is what a lot of recipes cater to these days… meals in 30 minutes or less, with little regard to better nutrition and the kind of flavour that only comes from giving a meal a little extra time.
When a copy of The Family Cooks: 100+ Recipes to Get Your Family Craving Food That’s Simple, Tasty, and Incredibly Good for You landed in my hands, I knew right away I had a winner.
My kid’s kind of an adult-eater. It might be because of his dairy allergies; but he’s little gem… if you ask him what is favourite green vegetable is, it’s currently wilted spinach. Not peas–he hates peas (go figure). His favourite green veg used to be broccoli, but spinach bumped it to #2 after I began making him dairy-free spinach omelettes. I’ll have to introduce him to a quiche… I might blow his mind.
At any rate, I’ve always been looking for ways to introduce him to different foods, and kale is one of the ones that I’ve been trying to get him to come around to. Kale chips were a bust, and so was regular wilted kale with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
There are some unique recipes in this cookbook that are great uses for the “problem vegetables” like kale that might show up a little too frequently in your CSA share (really, how many kale smoothies and chips can one adult be expected to consume all summer?). The recipes all feature fresh foods. It offers suggestions on ingredients and ways to tweak many of the recipes, to keep the recipe fresh and interesting even after it’s become a family staple. It’s even really kid friendly: little purple Ks throughout the book give you tips on how to include your children in the kitchen as you make the meal.
There’s also some great one-pot options in there, such as this Balsamic Chicken recipe, which Raincoast Books gave me permission to share. So without further ado, check out the kind of dishes this recipe book has in store! And feel free to pick up a copy of it.
- 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- Olive oil, for the pot
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces mushrooms (button, shiitake, or your favorite), sliced (about 3 cups)
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes with their juices, or 31/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1 cup pearled barley
- 3 cups chopped greens, such as kale, chard, or collards
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the rack in the lower third.
- Toss together the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the thyme in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Heat a Dutch oven or large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle it with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and let sizzle for a minute. Add the tomatoes and barley and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and black pepper or pepper flakes to taste (it will taste quite tart but the flavours will mellow down as they cook).
- Gently bury the chicken thighs in the pot, add enough water to just cover the chicken (about 1 cup), and return to a simmer. Slide the pot into the oven and braise,uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and fold in the greens; add more water if it seems dry. Cover the pot and return to the oven to braise until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste! ... Does it need a final splash of balsamic to brighten the flavour? Some salt or pepper flakes?
- Braise: To slowly cook something partially submerged in a flavourful liquid.