Monthly Archives

January 2010

Chicken Kid Friendly

Chicken Enchiladas

My oldest daughter will be attending college in the fall and is now completely consumed with how she’s going to survive on college food.  Although this gave me a huge chuckle, Alex is truly worried about staying healthy and eating right during her college years.  This gave Alex and I the idea to design a few easy but healthy recipes that could be tailored to the individual taste buds, and budgets.

One simple recipe that can be prepared a multitude of different ways is chicken enchiladas.  These can be prepared as simply or as complex as you like.  I’ve written the recipe with lots of “options”, to be easily adaptable for your favorite mexican flavors.    Use your leftover roasted chicken or diced chicken from your local market.  Any kind of cheese is great with this recipe, so feel free to use your child’s favorite.  My family adores Ranchero cheese which makes a truly authentic tasting enchilada.  However, it’s not always easy to find, so for something zesty try a pepper jack cheese.

This is the perfect recipe to use as a guide, but substitute all your favorite Mexican flavors.  So get creative in the kitchen and make tonight Fiesta night with everyone’s favorite chicken enchiladas!

Easy Chicken Enchiladas


12 white corn tortillas

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped or hand torn

1 small white onion, small diced

1 teaspoon Cumin (optional) (or try a dash of Chipotle Chili Powder)

2 cups Mexican cheese (Pepper Jack, Ranchero, or Monterey Jack)

1 large jar of Mexican Salsa Verde (green salsa) either mild or medium (about 2 cups)

2 cups cooked diced chicken

1 cup sour cream + 1/3 cup heavy cream, to make a crema (optional)

Salt and pepper

Sliced black olives and chopped green onions for garnish


Pre heat an oven to 375F.  In a large bowl, mix together the cilantro, onion, 1 cup of cheese, diced chicken and a pinch of salt and pepper and any other spices you’d like to add.  Heat the tortillas either by brushing them with a little oil and then heating them in the oven on a cookie sheet for about 5-8 minutes until the tortillas are hot to the touch, or heat them one at a time in the microwave for about 10 seconds.  This softens the tortilla so that you can roll the enchiladas.

Heat the salsa Verde in a microwave safe bowl or in a small pan stove top.  Once the salsa is nicely heated through, dip a tortilla in the sauce, shaking off the excess.  Place the tortilla in an 9×13 baking dish, and on one end of the tortilla, fill with a tablespoon or two of the filling.  Roll the tortilla around the filling snugly and place seam side down on one end of the baking dish.  Repeat this process with as many tortillas as your baking dish will allow, usually 8-10.

Once your tortillas are filled, pour about ½ cup of salsa Verde over your tortillas, spreading in a very thin layer.  Try not to drown your tortillas as they will become soggy.  You just want enough salsa to flavor the enchiladas. Mix together the sour cream and heavy cream to make the crema and spread this over the salsa Verde, just down the center.

Next, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the enchiladas are heated through.

Serve with sour cream, fresh avocado slices or guacamole, additional salsa, Mexican Slaw, Mexican rice and chili beans.

Additional Option:  Make these vegetarian with black beans and several different cheeses.


Chicken Braised in Red Wine over Creamy Polenta

I adore classic French recipes such as Beef Bourguignon, Quiche Lorraine and Coq au Vin.  They are all fairly simple to prepare, yet rich in flavor.  Many different versions of these great classics abound, one of my favorite versions of Coq au Vin is this simple chicken brasied in red wine.  The chicken is full of flavor and fork tender.  I love to serve this dish over my favorite creamy polenta, but roasted baby red potatoes or wide egg noodles also compliment this recipe.  

Although this might appear a labor intensive recipe, it’s super easy.  Yes, you will need to remove the chicken and veggies from the pot to a platter several times; however, you’ll only need one large Dutch oven or stock pot, and one sauté pan. Once you make this recipe a time or two, it’ll become one of the easiest and delicious meals in your recipe repertoire.  A perfect fall or winter meal that is comforting, delicious and easy, everyday gourmet!


Extra virgin olive oil

6 slices bacon (preferably nitrate free)

2 carrots, small diced

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large onion, small diced

2 tablespoons flour (skip if cooking wheat free)

6-8 skinless bone in chicken thighs

2 cups dry red wine (I like Chianti)

1 cup chicken broth

1 sprig fresh thyme (can substitute with ½ teaspoon dried thyme)

1 sprig oregano (can substitute with ½ teaspoon dried oregano)

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper

8 ounces Cremini Mushrooms sliced

¼ cup Italian Parsley finely chopped

Creamy Polenta (recipe below)


Preheat the oven to 325F.  Heat a Dutch oven or large oven proof stock pot on medium heat.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan so the bacon won’t stick.  Add the bacon pieces and cook until the bacon has rendered most of the fat and is beginning to crisp.

Add the carrots and onions to the bacon and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5-8 minutes.  Next, add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two.  Remove all the veggies to a plate or bowl, leaving the fat in the pot. 

Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown the chicken in the same pot until nicely browned.  Remove the chicken to a plate and remove all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pot. 

Add the veggies back to the pot and sprinkle with flour.  Stir to combine and let the flour cook for a minute or two.

Add the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom of the pot.  Next, add the chicken broth, sprig of thyme and oregano, and the bay leaf.  Place the chicken thighs back into the pot and bring liquid to a boil.

Once the liquid begins to boil, put the Dutch oven or oven proof stock pot into the pre heated oven and let it cook for about 40 minutes. 

After 40 minutes, remove the pot from the oven and place stove top.  Check to make sure the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken to a plate and heat the liquid on medium high.  Simmer the liquid until it has reduced by half.  Taste for seasoning.  Put the chicken back into the pot and let warm while you are preparing the mushrooms.

Heat a sauté pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sauté the cremini mushrooms until wilted and lightly golden brown.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and fresh chopped parsley.

To serve, place the chicken thighs on a platter and ladle some of the sauce and veggies over the top.  Sprinkle with the mushroom and parsley mixture.  Serve with creamy polenta, roasted potatoes, or large egg noodles.

Creamy Polenta

1 Cup Whole Milk

1 Cup Chicken Broth

½ cup instant Polenta (I use the brand Moretti)

¼ cup fresh parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the milk and broth on medium and once it begins to boil, add the polenta.  Stir in one direction until the polenta has thickened a bit, two or three minutes.  When it’s done, take the polenta off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Recipe can be doubled.

Chicken Kid Friendly

Chicken Chippers

Here’s another new post in my kid friendly catagory.  These are so much fun to prepare and children LOVE them.  My youngest is gluten intolerant and can’t eat traditional chicken fingers, so these potato chip crusted chicken wonders are a huge hit in my house. 

This recipe has been around for a long time, however, in typical Bennett fashion, I’ve adapted and updated these chippers to accomodate the fussiest of little foodies.  Try using barbeque chips, or my daughter’s favorite, sour cream and onion chips!  I never said these would be low in the calorie count area, however, they are baked and not fried.  So if you have a fussy little foodie in your house, get them cooking in the kitchen preparing these delightful and delicious Chicken Chippers!

Chicken Chippers


3 cups potato chips (I prefer Lays), crushed

1 lb organic free range chicken fingers or chicken breasts sliced into strips

2 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon water

1 cup flour (or a gluten free flour mix such as Pamela’s from )

Salt and pepper


Preheat an oven to 375F.  Line up three bowls next to a baking sheet lined with parchment.  In the first bowl place the flour.  In the second bowl place the egg wash, and in the third bowl place the crushed chips. 

Make sure the chicken fingers are patted dry with a paper towel, then dust in the flour and pat off the excess.  Next dip the chicken into the egg wash and then into the chips, coating and pressing the chips into the chicken.  Place the chicken finger on the lined parchment and repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

Bake the chicken for about 10 – 15 minutes or until done.  Place the chicken fingers on a platter and enjoy! 

Options:  Serve with Ranch dressing, BBQ sauce or ketchup.  Whatever might taste good to you!

Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

Roasted Broccoli Parmesan

Roasted Broccoli Parmesan

Sometimes I just can’t get enough broccoli.  I love it raw, steamed, stir fried and roasted.  I think roasted is my favorite.

Oven Roasted Broccoli

Roasting veggies, especially broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, brings out the most unique and caramelized flavors.  Add a little garlic, Romano or parmesan and I’ve got the perfect side dish for a dinner meal.  Suzie Q, my youngest gal, likes to personalize her roasted broccoli with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar.  🙂

I often roast a baking sheet of broccoli, cauliflower or Brussel sprouts while I’ve got a pork loin or chicken roasting in the oven.  Just pop the baking sheet of veggies into the oven on the rack below, about 15 minutes before the pork or chicken is done.  Then everything comes out of the oven at the same time and dinner is done.  Gotta love that!

Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

1-2 lbs fresh organic broccoli, washed, dried and cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1/4- 1/2 cup fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place the broccoli pieces in a large bowl and toss with a drizzle of oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the dressed broccoli on the baking sheet lined 10 minutes, or until the tops of the broccoli are toasted in color and crisp tender to the touch.

When the broccoli is done, remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.  Transfer the broccoli to a platter and serve immediately.

For a little variation add crushed cloves of garlic to the broccoli before roasting.  This will make a lovely garlic roasted broccoli.  You can also sub grated Asiago or Romano for the Parmesan… or of course, shredded cheddar. 🙂

Beef Kid Friendly Pasta Pork

Italian Meatballs – Simple and Delicious!

I believe I’ve made twenty different types of meatballs over the last few years.  Each time hoping I’ve come up with the perfect meatball recipe.  I’m not sure there is such a thing, especially with my family’s diverse taste buds.  However, I think I’ve come up with one darn good recipe that’ll be sure to please even the pickiest of meatball connoisseurs.  And the best news is, they are easily prepared with minimum fuss and maximum flavor.

To save time, make a double batch and freeze half for another meal.  Then, when you need a meal in a pinch, just thaw the frozen meatballs (or meatball mix) and bake as directed in the recipe.  The meatballs also make a yummy appetizer for a casual dinner party.  Hold the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish or warmer and serve with party picks for easy self serving.

I’ve included a simple tomato sauce recipe for the meatballs.  This sauce can be doubled and then half of the sauce can be frozen for your next meal that requires a fresh tomato sauce.  A quick tip:  I often spend one weekend day a month making homemade tomato sauce.  It’s easy to freeze and can be used in a multitude of recipes.

However, if time is a factor, feel free to substitute your favorite jarred sauce.  Cooks Illustrated recently rated jarred pasta sauces.  Bertolli’s Tomato and Basil Sauce won the highest recommendation for not being over seasoned and having a fresh tomato taste.  If you’re looking for an organic sauce choice, my personal favorite is Muir Glen Cabernet Marinara.  All the Muir Glen sauces are delicious and make suitable substitutions for homemade sauce.   Bon Appetito!

Italian Meatballs and Simple Tomato Gravy


½ lb Ground Pork

½ lb Ground Beef

½ lb Ground Veal

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

½ cup yellow onion, small diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs or seasoned bread crumbs mixed with 1/3 cup warm milk

¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 egg whisked


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Mix lightly, all ingredients together with a spoon or hands.  Form into tablespoon size balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Repeat the process until all the meatball mixture has been used.

Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Remove from the oven and place the meatballs in the pot of tomato gravy.  Serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with additional parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese.

Simple Tomato Gravy

1 28oz can tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes for a chunkier sauce)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion diced

2-3 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)

1 tsp dried oregano (or ½ tsp fresh chopped oregano)

1 tsp tomato paste

Pinch of red pepper (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup water (keep on hand to thin out sauce)

Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and sauté the onions.   When the onions have become translucent, add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant.  Do not brown the garlic as it will taste bitter.  Add the red wine and reduce by half.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste and red pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Let the sauce simmer for about 5-10 minutes.  If the sauce appears to think, add about ¼ cup of water at a time to thin the sauce.  Taste for seasoning.

A few tips:  If your sauce tastes a little to “bright” or has too much acidity, try adding a pat of butter to your sauce to mellow out the acid.

Although it is a rare occasion, I sometimes run out of staple ingredients such as garlic and Italian parsley.  Not to worry.  Simply substitute with a teaspoon of garlic powder and, either fresh chopped basil or a teaspoon of dried basil.  Basil is not parsley, however, just like parsley, basil compliments the meatball mixtures flavor.

Bon Appetito!