January 5, 2011 in Food

Trio of cookbooks can inspire more regular family meals

Mary Ladd

Good eats with the family may be an uphill battle, what with all the competition from Facebook, cell phones, TV and the crowded schedules so endemic to modern life.

Die-hard cooks, who have settled into a happy routine of regular family meals, may not need any encouragement. But for us mere mortals, a trio of new, family-centric cookbooks is exactly the inspiration we need.

“Double Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld – wife of funny man Jerry – is the follow-up to her best-selling, trick-your-kids-into-eating-veggies- via-purees cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious.”

Laurie David, former wife of Larry David, head writer and executive producer on “Seinfeld,” has just released a cookbook dubbed “The Family Dinner.”

The final book in the trio is a take on “Teen Cuisine” from restaurateur and cookbook author Matthew Locricchio.

‘Double Delicious’

“Double Delicious” (Harper Collins, 208 pages, $28.99) was inspired, Seinfeld says, by “serious issues” at her house with kids who “wouldn’t eat anything.”

Seinfeld still resorts to sneaky purees, but says she has learned to shop healthfully and wisely, with attention to food labels, trans fats, seasonal produce, and beans and grains.

Readers get detailed info on how to navigate labels and stores, and think of different ways to use healthy ingredients in her recipes.

Naysayers may not be able to fully wrap their heads around a breakfast starter of banana chocolate chip waffles – with carrot puree. That said, the carrot is tough to detect and adds a pleasing, natural sweetness.

Mexican food snobs may wonder about huevos rancheros made with cauliflower puree and served on whole-wheat tortillas. While not exactly traditional, the dish offers a healthier option with good flavors.

It may be easier to dig into an Italian-themed balsamic chicken sandwich, or even the grilled cheese sandwiches with a white bean spread for added protein.

‘Family Dinner’

Laurie David, an environmental activist and award-winning producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” freely admits she “doesn’t have a perfect family life, believe me!”

But her new book, “The Family Dinner” (Grand Central Publishing, 256 pages, $29.99), came from the epiphany, she says, that she’d “done something right” as a mother of two.

The since-divorced David always made dinner a must-attend event for her family, and now finds that her daughters like to chat and linger long after the crepes have been cleared.

David’s games, decorating tips and conversational gambits help turn the meal into a family experience, at least in theory. That’s even if you have a tough time mulling, say, the highs and lows of your week at the dinner table.

It may be easier if you dig into crunchy chicken schnitzel with tangy buttermilk potatoes and big peas-little peas, while discussing your first three jobs – one of David’s suggested conversation topics.

The schnitzel quickly will become a family favorite, but David does a vegetable enchilada pie, butterfly pasta with kale and other veggie-tastic options, too.

‘Teen Cuisine’

Matthew Locricchio knows we eat with our eyes before taking a taste. His “Teen Cuisine” (Marshall Cavendish, 208 pages, $22.95) is big on visually appealing pictures to match the recipes for the teen set.

Those who have cooked with Locricchio’s popular “International Cookbooks for Kids” will find this entry engaging.

And if your teen isn’t immediately drawn to the grits and cheddar cheese souffle, or the quinoa and black bean salad with lime dressing, there are plenty of comfort food standbys, including homemade pizza, po-boys and glazed pork tenderloin.

There’s no cute food here. This book is designed for hearty teen appetites, with safety and cooking tips dispersed throughout.

But Locricchio recognizes that many teens already have had ample practice at least thinking about food and even cooking for themselves and younger family members.

And the Food Network influence means most teens are unfazed by the term “small dice” – or, for that matter, souffle.

Sunrise Muffins

From Matthew Locricchio’s “Teen Cuisine”

4 carrots

1 orange

1 1/4 cups spelt or unbleached flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup safflower oil

1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Wash and peel the carrots. Grate them on largest holes of a cheese grater.

Wash the orange. To make the zest, grate the outside of the orange, using the smallest holes on the grater. Be careful not to scrape off the white pith underneath.

Add 1 tablespoon zest to the carrots. Squeeze juice from the orange. Measure 1/4 cup and mix it into the carrots and zest.

Combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix together with a whisk.

Add the carrot mixture along with the eggs, molasses, oil, yogurt and vanilla to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, lightly fold the ingredients together just until the flour has been incorporated. Don’t overmix; it should be lumpy, not smooth.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until brown on top. Insert a toothpick in the middle of one; if it comes out clean, the muffins are done.

Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then tip the muffins out and let cool on a rack.

Yield: 12 muffins

Crunchy Chicken Schnitzel

From Laurie David’s “The Family Dinner”

3 cups panko or other unseasoned breadcrumbs

1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging

4 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 pounds thin-cut boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Vegetable oil, for sauteing

2 lemons, sliced

Mix the panko crumbs and Parmesan in a wide, shallow container. Fill another wide, shallow container with flour and a third with the beaten eggs.

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, pat or shake off the excess, then dip them in egg, letting any excess drip off. Coat the cutlets in the panko mixture.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame and drizzle in enough oil to cover the bottom. Gently saute the cutlets, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden and just cooked through.

Serve garnished with a lemon slice.

Yield: 6 servings

Pasta with Pea Pesto and Chicken

From “Double Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld


2 cups peas, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 medium cloves garlic

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon salt


6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 pounds)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

8 ounces whole-wheat penne or fusilli

For the pesto, blanch the peas in boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock them in cold water. Combine the peas and remaining ingredients in a food processor. Blend to form a thick sauce.

Season the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken on each side until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Cool slightly, and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Toss with pesto and chicken and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

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