Healthy breakfasts, family dinners, how to cook a chicken that doesn’t taste like sawdust — today’s 2020 inaugural column addresses classic burning questions. Keep ’em coming everyone! Here are three Q&As…
What are breakfast options beyond eggs? Our daughter is allergic to eggs and dairy, which limits our breakfast options dramatically! — Marina
One of my great failings as a mother — right up there with the kids’ indifference to using a napkin — is that I’ve never successfully converted my children into egg lovers. How they are related to me, I have no idea. So, even though my situation isn’t exactly like yours, I’m always in search of non-egg healthy breakfast options. This is why I have a running list of them on my phone’s notes app, which you should feel free to crib and refer to when you’re wandering in the supermarket:
— Smoked wild salmon on Finn crisps (I like the original flavor)
— Banana “canoes,” i.e. almond butter spread on split banana, and studded with raisins.
— Plain coconut yogurt (So Delicious brand is my favorite — stick with plain which is the least sweet but still tastes like pudding) with fruit and/or granola
— Smoothie bowls (blend 1 chunked non-frozen banana; 1 cup frozen strawberries; ½ cup frozen mango chunks; ½ cup unsweetened almond milk; top artfully with sliced almonds, strawberries, coconut flakes, and a dollop of your favorite nut butter)
— Avocado toasts, of course! (my kids love it spread on thin sourdough toast and topped with Trader Joe’s “Everything Bagel” seasoning)
— Dates, split open, stuffed with almond butter and sprinkled with hemp seeds
This last idea is from Catherine McCord, who is ridiculously prolific at dreaming up creative smoothies for her three children, one of whom has a dairy allergy. She launched the Smoothie Project a few years ago (it’s now a book) and is a master at creating healthy superfood — boosted smoothies (all non-dairy or include non-dairy tweaks) with fun names like Pinkalicious and Pumpkin Pie. How good does that sound right now?
How do you cook chicken breast — making sure to get rid of all the pink, but not overcooking it? My preferred method is on the stovetop. — Sydni
I love a good 101 question — thank you, Sydni! Chicken breasts, particularly the boneless kind, get a bad rap and I know why — they’re lean and can go to the cardboard place fast if you’re not paying attention. But they can also be golden, juicy and delicious, the kind your kids will ask to pluck right out of the skillet with their fingers. There are a few ways to achieve this, but the most important is to avoid starting with breasts that resemble the shape of a ski mitten, all bulbous and thick. This makes it way more difficult to cook them evenly. (By the time you’ve cooked the thick middle, the less-thick perimeter will resemble rubber.) The easy solution: slice the breast in half horizontally so they’re half as thick. The slightly more fussy solution: place the breast in between wax paper and pound it hard and thin with the flat end of a meat tenderizer. (Bonus: Very therapeutic for releasing the day’s residual anger.) Season your thinner breasts with salt and pepper, then place those even cutlets into a hot pan with lots of oil, resisting the urge to lift and check its progress, which will prevent your desired browned crust. (Yes, you can buy thinner cutlets, but I find those are never as flavorful.) Slice into diagonal strips and toss into salads, quesadillas or rice bowls.
I’d like to know how people cook with their partners or kids. Not just what they make together, but the logistics (and, heck, emotions!). I’ve always wanted a family culture where we all pitch in at meal time, but the way it goes right now, my husband and I each take different days where we’re responsible for making dinner. — Michaela
In my mind, this is the whole reason for Sunday dinner — when you have time to lean into the ritual of family meal. From the beginning, my whole thing over at Dinner: A Love Story has been to point out how dinner can be so much more than the pile of pasta your family inhales in three and half minutes. You don’t need me to tell you that there is so much that goes into making dinner happen (and therefore so much that can be optimized for family bonding time) besides the actual cooking, including, but not limited to: choosing recipes and menus, shopping for food, prepping the food, figuring out the right music to play while you prep the food, setting the table, cleaning up. It can be stressful to check all those boxes for a regular old weeknight and your system sounds like a perfect way to address that, but on Sunday — SUNDAY! You can do all of those things with your partner and/or kids. Heck, you can even start on Saturday and make a weekend project of it. This has the effect of turning what is normally a chore into more of a family adventure, especially if you do your shopping at the farmer’s market which can feel like a trip to the circus if you have young kids and hype it enough. Plus, you can use Sunday as a chance to try recipes you wouldn’t normally try on a weeknight, keeping in mind that the one who usually discovers a good dish is the one who ends up “owning” it, i.e. cooking it, forevermore.
Great questions. Thanks, everyone! As always, feel free to comment with other burning questions.
(Photo montage by Maud Passini.)