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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: kid friendly

Children can be picky about their food choices. Today they might like a particular food and tomorrow, they hate it!  Sometimes a new presentation or a new ingredient can spark their interest.  While french fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner might be what they want, getting children to select healthy options might not be that difficult. Kids are very proud of their accomplishments, so if they’ve helped make the dinner, they are more likely to eat it. Hopefully some of these recipes will work in your house.

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Number of Servings: 8

If broccoli isn’t a family favorite, you can substitute a 10 oz. package of defrosted frozen peas.

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or turkey breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Wondra works well for sauces)
  • 2 2/3 cups nonfat milk
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 package ( 12-14 oz.) cooked whole grain rotini or penne pasta

Directions

In a large, deep skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add chicken breast cubes. Saute until cooked through and lightly browned. Move chicken to pasta serving bowl; set aside. In the same skillet, heat remaining olive oil and add garlic, Italian seasoning and vegetables. Saute until cooked, but not limp. Add vegetables to bowl with chicken.  Stir milk and Wondra flour together and pour into skillet. Cook 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in cream cheese, cook 2 minutes. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until it melts.

Add hot cooked pasta, chicken and vegetables and toss well to coat. Pour into pasta serving bowl and top with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a green salad.

Parmesan Zucchini Cakes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium, about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cups Progresso Italian bread crumbs, divided
  • Marinara Sauce, warmed, see post for recipe, https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Use the large-holed side of a box grater to shred the zucchini. Place shredded squash in the center of a clean kitchen towel; gather up the ends and twist to squeeze out any liquid
  3. Mix together the egg substitute, onion, parsley, zucchini, cheese, ¼ cup bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl..
  4. With floured hands, shape zucchini mixture into smallish balls (about two tablespoons each) and roll in remaining bread crumbs and flatten slightly on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each cake over and bake for another 10-15 minutes until browned.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

For Snack Time

Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip

  • 1 -15-ounce can cannellini beans (no salt added), drained or 2 cups cooked dried beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper
  • Carrot and Celery Sticks

Puree first 5 ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Add salt and pepper. Transfer dip to serving  bowl with carrot and celery sticks.

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Turkey Pizza Burger Sliders

Makes 8 sliders

  • 1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil, for brushing sliders
  • 8 small slices fresh mozzarella
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Whole Wheat Potato Rolls

Directions

Place turkey, scallions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, basil 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Gently combine, without over mixing, until evenly incorporated.

Mix all the burger ingredients well and form into 2.5 ounce balls. Flatten into patties, about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with olive oil.
To grill the turkey burgers, preheat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the patties, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165°F, 8 to 10 minutes total.

Place burgers on a whole wheat potato roll. Top sliders with a tablespoon of marinara sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese.

Martin’s makes the best tasting whole wheat rolls. Your kids will love them.

Codfish Cakes

Codfish cakes are made in many countries throughout the world. In Italy the recipe calls for dried salt cod,  Baccala, but you can use any leftover (or even fresh) white-fleshed fish. Salt cod is often found in stores around the winter holidays because it’s almost a sacred food in many cultures — definitely so in Italian and Portuguese cuisines, for example.

My mother made these fish cakes when she had leftover baccala during the Christmas season but you have to soak the baccala overnight and it is still salty. Here’s a variation using fresh cod instead and children love them (its the mashed potatoes part that does that).

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of cod fillets
  • 2 medium-sized baking potatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute 
  • 3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed and processed into crumbs (about 1 cup)

Directions

Boil and mash the potatoes, set them aside.
Poach the codfish until it flakes easily. Drain and add the fish to the potatoes. Mash together. Mix the fish, the potatoes and the next 7 ingredients together.

Form the mixture into 3 inch patties and lightly dredge in bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet well with olive oil cooking spray.

Place patties on prepared baking pan and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip patties, carefully, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 fish cakes. Serves 4-6.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

Oven baked sweet potatoes are a healthy choice, but there is a problem, they don’t get crispy.  They get brown, but not crisp.
I have found a method that really works.

Cut 2 large sweet potatoes into finger size thicknesses.

Let potatoes soak in cold water for an hour.  Drain but don’t dry on towels.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place two tablespoons of cornstarch into a plastic bag.

Add sweet potatoes to the bag with the cornstarch.  Twist the top of the bag so it forms a balloon with some air inside and shake the fries around until they’re lightly coated with the cornstarch.

Put the coated fries on a non stick baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the fries.
Using your hands, toss the potatoes to make sure the fries are well coated. Rearrange them on the sheet again, so that they have space between each fry.

The less fries on the pan the better because, if the potatoes are crowded, they will not get crispy.  They’ll just steam.  You might want to use 2 baking sheets. if you do not have a large enough pan.

Bake the fries in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

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Pensacola_Beach_1957_White_SandMy husband and I love having our children and their families come for visit and we love visiting them in their homes. Family is important to us and even though none of us live near each other, we keep in touch daily.  When we are together, it is always great fun. So much to do – swimming in the pool, riding the waves at the beach or racing go-karts – brings out the hunger pangs and Grandma has a fix for that.  I am sharing some of my grandchildren’s favorite foods; kid-friendly meals that I have tried to make healthy without sacrificing flavor.

The dish that wins, hands down, as the number one favorite, is chicken fingers. They are healthy because they are baked with minimal fat instead of fried. To date, no one has noticed that they are not fried. The steps to prepare this dish are listed below:

Unfried Chicken Fingers

  • 1/2 pound chicken breast tenders (fingers), about 8
  • 1/4 cup refrigerator egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Olive oil cooking spray   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat a 9”x 13” glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish and pour the egg substitute over them.  Rotate and coat all the fingers.

Chicken Fingers coated in egg substitute.

Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and dredge fingers in crumbs.

Chicken Fingers coated in bread crumbs

Place in prepared baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle fingers with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Chicken Fingers drizzled with oil

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  Turn fingers over and bake 15 minutes more.

Baked Chicken Fingers

Serve this dish with a healthy ranch dip (recipe below) and apple slices for lunch.
Chicken fingers may be frozen and reheated in a hot oven.  I usually prepare a supply when I know the children are coming, so that they are handy when we need them.

Healthy Ranch Dip

  • 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash of Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients and chill.

  1. Chicken fingers also make a good dinner option with low-fat macaroni and cheese and a green vegetable.

Low-fat Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni ( whole grain pasta is better)
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 3 oz. Velveeta Light Cheese cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz. Monterey Jack shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 13”× 9” baking dish with cooking spray.

Boil macaroni in salted water until tender but firm.
While pasta cooks, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in small bowl.
Pour remaining 1½ cups milk into large saucepan and heat on low. Once milk is slightly warmed, turn heat to medium-low and add flour and milk mixture, stirring until thick.
Reduce heat slightly and add butter, cheeses and salt.
Cook until smooth (about 5 minutes).
Drain macaroni, then combine with sauce mixture, stirring thoroughly.
Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs lightly and evenly on top and bake 25-30 minutes.

    2.  Another good dinner option: soup and calzone:

Easy Stracciatella Italian Soup

Ingredients

8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta (very small pasta)
10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach ( thawed and well-drained)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot bring chicken broth to a boil on high heat.
Stir in orzo; cook approximately 10 minutes until tender but slightly firm.
Stir in spinach, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook approx 5 minutes.
Add in beaten egg to soup stirring constantly until set and cooked.
Serve in kid- sized bowls.
Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Tomato and Mozzarella Calzone

  1. Store bought pizza dough or ½ of the recipe for homemade dough, (see post, http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/04/its-friday-lets-have-pizza/)
  2. Flour, for dusting
  3. Homemade Tomato Sauce (see post for recipe, https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  4. Sliced skim mozzarella cheese
  5. Salt, pepper and dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, shape into balls, then flatten and roll out into 6 inch rounds on a lightly floured surface. Brush cold water around the edges.
  • Spread marinara sauce over the dough, spreading evenly and leaving a small border around the edge. Place slices of mozzarella on one side of each dough round and season with oregano and a little black pepper.
  • Enclose the filling by lifting over the other side of the dough. Press the edges firmly together to seal and transfer to a large baking sheet.
  • Cut a couple of tiny holes in the center of each calzone. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the calzone is pale-golden.  Serve with additional sauce.                                                                                                                                                                                               


Vanilla & Chocolate Rocks

Of course we can’t forget dessert.  My grandchildren (and children) love these cookies. This recipe can be doubled and the cookies freeze well.

Adapted from King Arthur
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1  cup unbleached all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Melt the butter blend in a large microwave-safe bowl, add the sugar, and return to the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, till the mixture is hot to the touch.
Cool slightly, and beat in the vanilla, baking powder, salt, espresso powder, and egg substitute.
Let cool to lukewarm, then add the flours and chocolate chunks, stirring briefly, just until well combined.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. (I put 12 cookies on one baking sheet) Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, until they’re barely set.
Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. Yield: 2 dozen cookies.


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