Parties and the Fussy Eater

This past weekend, my wife and I were fortunate enough to attend a Halloween party. We had a great time and our clever couples costume idea seemed to be quite a hit. Well, actually it was our son’s idea. He suggested we go as puzzle pieces. So we went out to the local craft store and picked up a poster board, a poster, and some ribbon.  The toughest part was figuring out what poster to use.

My wife and I have been big fans of various Marvel comics for quite some time. In fact, we met online largely due to our shared interest in the X-Men. My online profile listed Wolverine as my favorite super-hero.  She saw that and my height (6’4″) and hit me up. We’ve been together 14 years now. So getting back to the poster – we saw several that we liked. It also had to be landscape instead of portrait so it would spread across both of us. That limited things a little. Finally, we settled on a Marvel comics poster with just about every character they’ve ever done. We still are having trouble figuring out who they all are.

So we glued the poster to the poster board and once it was dry, we carefully cut it into two separate pieces and scored each one to look like it was made up of two pieces. Then we cut small holes at the top to run the ribbon thru to make loops for our heads.  The nice thing is you can easily remove this costume to drive, use the restroom, or even just sit comfortably.

When we arrived at the party, the host and many (though not all) of the guests were in costume. Most of them were all in the kitchen, chatting and snacking on somewhat typical party fare. They had cheese and crackers, chips and dip, and even chocolate fondue with several items for dipping. Throughout the night, I kept going back to dip the marshmallow ghosts into the chocolate fondue. We were a bit surprised to find that our gracious host also had dinner planned and cooked it all herself. Dinner out always gets me a little nervous because I never know what to expect. When the food came out, my fears were confirmed, but I looked for something that I might find palatable and found chicken cacciatore. I just took the chicken without all the sauce and such. It wasn’t bad and at least I didn’t feel like an outcast with nothing on my plate but a roll. Dessert included several items I didn’t touch, but at least had candy corn and chocolate chip cookies.

This all got me thinking about how different parties are for fussy eaters. We’re always worried about what will be served and feel like all eyes are on us if we pick apart our food like we might do at home. Before some parties I will actually eat a sandwich or two so I won’t go hungry. Parties shouldn’t have to be like that.  I got lucky at this party, but there ought to be more fussy-friendly party food. Not everyone wants to do chicken fingers, burgers, or hot dogs.

What other recipes can you think of for a fussy eater party?

 

Burger with Irish Whiskey Onions

Since the onions on the Irish Steak surprised me, I figured I would give them another try, but this time on a burger. My wife, Linda, normally has caramelized onions on her burger and when I said that I wanted to do them up like on the steak, she was more than willing.

I started up the burgers on the grill like I normally would. Meanwhile back inside, I sliced and diced some onions and started them in our cast iron pan. I added a little olive oil and butter, seasoned them with black pepper and salt, and cooked them on medium-high heat for around 10 minutes. Then I turned off the gas and added a little Jameson Irish Whiskey. Turning off the gas is a good idea to prevent anything from flaming up if some of the whiskey splatters or spills.

Unlike the steak, the burgers never cooked in the onion whiskey sauce. I brought them in from the grill when they were cooked to our liking. Linda put a bunch of onions on her burger. I was much more cautious. I only added a little bit. I didn’t want it to ruin my meal if I didn’t care for them. One thing I noticed was that the onion sauce didn’t have quite the same dark color it did with the steak. It was a little dark, but not as much. I think that might be because some of the juices from the steak helped darken it and add flavor to it.

I so had my burger with a little bit of onion sauce, cheese, and ketchup. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Linda said I should have added more onions to really get the flavor. I might try that next time. Then again, it might be better to cook the burger in the cast iron pan with the onions. I’m not sure either one will make a difference. Burgers might just need to stay the way they are. Some things just shouldn’t be messed with.

Irish Steaks Recipe

I have never found an onion I didn’t want to spit out of my mouth – until now.

My wife found this recipe last week and we decided to try it out over the weekend. She has always been telling me that onions are sweeter when they get caramelized. I tried one of her onions before and found it way to slimy and disgusting, but those were sliced onions. This calls for chopped onions. I also thought the addition of whiskey might make the onions easier to take. I tweaked things slightly, but here is the official recipe. Read below for my changes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 4 ounce beef top sirloin steaks
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup Irish whiskey such as Jameson®
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat until butter has melted.
  2. Cook and stir onions in butter and oil until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes. Push onions aside with a spatula.
  3. Rub steaks with cut sides of garlic clove.
  4. Place steaks in the skillet, leaving the onions to the side, and cook over medium-high heat until meat is browned but still lightly pink inside, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. Remove the skillet from heat. Slowly pour Irish whiskey into the hot skillet be careful, whiskey fumes are flammable.
  6. Mix browned onions into whiskey and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  7. Sprinkle steaks with salt, black pepper, and parsley
  8. Turn steaks over in whiskey pan sauce to coat both sides, and serve drizzled with sauce.

via Irish Steaks Recipe – Allrecipes.com.

I started off pretty much the same way. I chopped the onion up reasonably fine figuring that it would be easier for me to deal with the texture if it was all tiny pieces. Normally when I caramelize onions for my wife, I just use olive oil in a cast iron pan. The combination of butter and vegetable oil seems to really help brown them nicely.

I cut the garlic and rubbed it on the steak, but somehow I doubt this really adds anything to the dish. If your fussy eater is really cautious about what you use when you cook, I’d suggest leaving it out. I just used one large sirloin steak rather than several small ones. Instead of waiting to season the steak when it went on the skillet, I sprinkled Instant Gourmet and salt on it while I let the onion cook. I then added the steak to the skillet and browned it up.

I added 1/4 cup of whiskey and didn’t think it covered enough of the steak so I added another 1/4 cup and mixed in the onions. Be sure to keep the burner off when adding the whiskey or you might just end up with and unexpected flambe.

Once I added the whiskey safely, I turned the heat back on medium. Once it started simmering, I turned it down just a bit. I kept stirring the onions up in the whiskey too. Eventually, after about 5 to 10 minutes it had reduced down to a nice sauce.

I removed the cast iron pan from the stove and cut the steak down into 2 portions. The only thing I dislike about sirloin is that it is a little bit fattier than I care for so I did have to cut it up a bit to get enough meat to eat. I only put a little bit of the onion/whiskey sauce on my steak until I knew what to expect. I didn’t have high hopes.

To my surprise, the onions really did add a sweetness to the steak and they didn’t have that same slimy feel that the sliced onions usually have. I think finely chopping them made a huge difference in the texture. They were soft and mushy, but not slimy. I made sure to just put a little on each piece of steak so I didn’t get much of that mushy texture either. I’m not quite sure why the recipe calls for sirloin. I think the next time I make steak this way I’m going to try a London broil or maybe even a strip steak. They are a bit more lean.

I can’t believe I actually found a way to eat onions! It was totally unexpected. I never would have thought I’d be looking forward to trying an onion dish a second time (or first for that matter).

Are there any recipes that have surprised your fussy eater? Let me know and I’ll give them a try too.

Weekend Cheese Omelet

My wife, Linda, works Saturday mornings at Gold’s Gym. I’m not usually up for much of a breakfast right after getting up so I wait until after she leaves to make breakfast for myself. Usually, I just have a bowl of cereal and sometimes I’ll just wait until lunch to eat. This weekend I figured I needed something a little more substantial.

We recently started fostering a puppy that’s just a little over a year old. He doesn’t look much like a puppy though. He’s a little bit bigger than our 10-11 year old Pit Bull, but has WAY more energy. I’ve been walking the two dogs every morning for about a mile and then later in the day we go out for a nice long 2.5-3 mile walk. Did I mention that he has little to no leash training? He just wants to run. It takes a lot of my energy to keep him at my side.

So I decided that a nice 4 egg cheese omelet would really hit the spot.  I crack the 4 eggs into a bowl and add a decent splash of half-n-half and then use a fork to whisk it all together. I heat a Teflon pan with a little butter on medium heat. Then I add the eggs. We had some shredded colby/cheddar cheese on had so sprinkled that on one side of the eggs. I like the shredded cheese because it gives you much more control over where you get cheese and how much. I let the eggs cook until they start to get a little less runny and then I flip one half onto the other. I never get it perfect. There is almost always a little offset, but try to get it as close as possible. I continue to cook it on that side until the offset starts to get a little more solid. Then I flip the whole thing over and let the other side cook a little more. I like my eggs thoroughly cooked so I actually let them brown just slightly. You can let them stay runny if you like but I think most fussy eaters probably like their eggs fully cooked.

The cheese omelet makes a great start to the morning. Fortunately, the dogs are getting along well and the puppy is slowly starting to get the hang of walking on a leash.

Chicken Marsala Recipe

A few years back, we were visiting my brother and his wife and they made Chicken Marsala for dinner. Since then, we have found it to be a bit of a welcome change from our typical chicken dishes. Naturally, we have adapted the recipe a little bit to suit our tastes and the seasonings we have on hand. The best part is that it is relatively simple and quick to make, yet looks and tastes like you’ve been slaving over a hot stove all afternoon.

Ingredients:

  • Several pieces of chicken breast
  • Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 1/4 cup Panko chips
  • 1/4 cup Bread Crumbs
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1 can Sliced Mushrooms

Directions:

  1. Trim the chicken breasts and pound them flat.
  2. In a gallon food storage bag, mix dry ingredients. I typically use approximately equal parts flour, panko chips, and bread crumbs and then add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Sprinkle some pepper on the chicken and then add it to the bag. Shake until thoroughly coated.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan. Use one with a lid – you’ll need it later.
  5. Add chicken to the pan and cook both sides just long enough to get a nice golden color.
  6. Add mushrooms and let them fry up just a little bit.
  7. Add Marsala wine till it covers about half the chicken.
  8. Reduce the heat and cover the pan.
  9. Flip the chicken every 5 minutes.
  10. Continue to cook until the Marsala has reduced and thickened.
  11. Server over pasta and enjoy.

 

You don’t need to add the mushrooms until you add the Marsala wine, but my wife figured that getting them a little fried might keep the texture from turning me off. If you don’t mid the mushrooms a little more soft and squishy, you can add them later.

 

You don’t need to cover the chicken completely with the Marsala wine. If you do, then you might not need to flip the chicken. However, you will have to wait a lot longer for it to reduce. Through trial and error, we have found that half covered reduced down to a nice thickens without having to wait too long. Depending on how you like the sauce you may want to experiment with how much Marsala you use.

 

It’s a little difficult to tell how thick the sauce is from the picture. I’d say it’s about the consistency of a thick  gravy. We served it over a nice wheat spaghetti.  Adding pepper to the chicken before it gets coated with the mix really spices it up a bit. I did even try a few mushrooms although I always made sure to get one with a bite of chicken and maybe some pasta. I never did try any on their own. They weren’t as bad as I thought they could be, but the texture was still a little unpleasant. I probably will try them again. The rest of the Chicken Marsala was delicious.

Grilled Southwestern Adobo Pork

Since I liked the Peppercorn Pork grilled, and I liked the Southwestern Adobo Pork cooked in the oven, it seemed a reasonable idea to grill the Southwestern Adobo Pork. I’m really liking these Hatfield pork products and Price Chopper seems to have them on BOGO (Buy One Get One) fairly often. We had thawed this one out expecting to have it earlier in the week, but the weather lately has really screwed with my sinuses. I don’t really feel like eating anything too heavy when I have a headache.

So we had it all thawed out and really needed to cook it since pork doesn’t keep as well as other meats. Linda was having dinner out with an old friend from school, so I figured I might as well cook it up for myself. My brother was coming in to town with his kids on their way to an annual camping trip they take on Columbus Day weekend so I didn’t have a lot of time. Then I remembered that when I grilled the pork it took a lot less time to cook. So I fired up the grill and tossed it on. A few minutes later I went to check on it and, wouldn’t you know it, the gas was out. For most people this might be an issue, but we grill often enough that we keep a spare on hand for just such an occasion. I swapped out the tank and I was cooking with gas again.

I turned it several times to keep it from burning since I left the grill on high. Instead of cooking for an hour in the oven, I think it was done in about half that. This gave me plenty of time to enjoy a nice quiet dinner before the house was due to erupt in laughter. Even though they had eaten on the way over, my brother and his friend (who also brings one of his sons) said it smelled so good they might just have to grab some anyway.

Before I left to pick up Linda from the restaurant, I showed them all how to use the Roku to watch TV, since we cut the cord on cable about a month ago. They were quite surprised at how good stuff looks thru Hulu Plus and Netflix.My brother was particularly interested in how much we’ve saved by getting rid of cable.

When I got back with Linda they turned the TV off and the kids went up to bed since they had an early morning planned.  Then we stayed up chatting and lost track of time until after 11:00. Morning came early at around 6:00 and they hit the road by 6:30 to head up to the Adirondacks.

And I still have leftovers to look forward to.

 

%d bloggers like this: