Life often isn’t fair – and we often discuss that – but I attempt to smooth the waters of sibling rivalry by making things as fair as possible. I have recently realized that they actually don’t want things to be fair, they just want to get more than anyone else. A few years ago, we instituted a system where for one week one girl gets to make all the choices first – she gets to choose where to sit in the minivan, she gets the pink plate, she gets her hair washed first, etc. It really has made life a lot simpler because there is no ambiguity.
When I was a child, my mom would bake dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies each December. When I started living on my own, I continued this tradition. As much as I love to bake, I often don’t have the patience to deal with little “helpers.” My helpers add significantly to the time it takes to finish and there is normally some unhappiness due to (you guessed it) something being unfair. One girl turns the KitchenAid on an extra time or gets an extra chocolate chip, and all of a sudden a fun project turns into a battleground, with crying children and a frustrated mom. Last year I started a new tradition by having each child pick their favorite Christmas cookie recipe and we make it together from start to finish. I am mentally prepared to spend a little extra time on it and it is fun to have one-on-one time with each of my kids. Of course, they all picked the same recipe this year, so we have Russian teacakes coming out of our ears!
As if life weren’t busy enough, December rolls around every year and before you know it the calendar is booked with parties, brunches, school programs. As the month progresses, relatives start arriving and the house is a disaster or you are frantically trying to pack the winter coats for a trek to the East Coast. Through all this, the laundry doesn’t magically get done and those kids still want food three or more times a day. If ever there was a need for quick and simple dinner, now is the time! Below are some recipes that I use when the time is short and my energy is low. Some of the recipes have a long simmer or baking time, but require very little prep work. I’ve also included our favorite cookie recipes. Enjoy!
Easy Pasta with chicken and bacon1/2 cup chopped pancetta or bacon (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 14 ½ ounce cans petite diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup torn basil leaves, divided
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (optional)
1 pound penne
Cook pancetta in large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Add olive oil and garlic to pancetta drippings and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juices, wine, and cream. Bring sauce to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup basil and chicken (if using). Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tomato sauce and stir to combine. Sprinkle pasta with pancetta and add remaining 1/4 cup basil and serve.Chicken and White Bean Stew (good recipe to double)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless chicken thighs (approx.)
1 pound red-skinned potatoes
3 large garlic cloves
14-16 ounces chicken broth
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds canned white beans (more or less)
Pour olive oil in Dutch oven. Set on medium-high and add chicken thighs. While they brown, cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks and add to pan. Peel and mince garlic and add to pan.
When chicken is deep brown, add rest of ingredients except beans. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep potatoes submerged in the juices.
Drain white beans and add to pan. Simmer 5 minutes more.
Ardys’ Spaghetti Sauce
1 ½ pound ground beef
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
12 oz. Tomato paste
3 cans of water (using empty tomato paste can)
Brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Drain fat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil then simmer, uncovered, for 90 minutes.Pecan Salmon
4 salmon fillets, 6 oz. Each
½ cup finely chopped pecans
1 egg white, beaten
1 tsp. Sugar
1/8 tsp. Salt
Heat oven to 425. Line baking sheet with foil. Place salmon fillets on baking sheet, skin side down.
Combine pecans, egg white, sugar, and salt. Spread nut mixture evenly over top of salmon. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just cooked through,
Tomato BBQ baby back ribs
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic
1 ½ cups ketchup
¼ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 350. Line a 17x12x1 inch shallow baking dish with aluminum foil.
Stir together all ingredients in a 2-qt. Saucepan and bring to boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Transfer sauce to food processor and puree until smooth (I don’t do this).
Coat both sides of ribs with sauce. Arrange meat side up in one layer. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove foil and bake another hour.
• Sauce can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered.
• Ribs can be marinated in cooled sauce in a large plastic bag, up to 24 hours.
• I saved the extra sauce for several weeks and it was fine.
• I covered for 1 hour, 15 minutes and then cooked an additional 45, but I think that is a little too long – start checking at 30 minutes after removing foil.
(Makes about 4 dozen)
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3/4 cups chopped nuts
Heat oven to 400F. Using mixer, cream butter, add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and nuts and mix until combined. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet (I use an insulated sheet). Bake until set, about 10-12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Cool and roll in powdered sugar again. Store in airtight container in freezer.
(makes 50 cookies)
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Using mixer, cream butter, add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour and salt; add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Chill dough at least one hour.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb (or knuckle) in each cookie leaving indention. Bake at 325F for 20 to 25 minutes; do not brown. Cool on wire racks and then spoon in frosting.
Frosting -- Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Divide between two bowls and add food coloring. Makes enough for a double batch of cookies.
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
green and red food coloring
• It is ok to make the dough ahead and keep in refrigerator. Let warm enough to shape into balls. Do thumbprint and put back into refrigerator briefly.
• When the cookies come out of the oven, I use a knife to gently deepen the “thumbprint”
Cinnamon Spiral Crisps
(Makes about 32 cookies)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces (I do many pieces)
3 tablespoons ice water (maybe a little less)
Put the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir to blend. Set aside. Put the flour and salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer. On low speed, add the butter pieces. Mix just until they are the size of small lima beans. They will not all be the same size, and you will still see loose flour. Slowly add 3 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stop beating as soon as the mixture begins to hold together and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured rolling surface and form it into a square disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until cold and firm.
On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll slightly larger, then cut to 9x12. The short end of the dough should be facing you and parallel to the edge of the counter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the dough.
Beginning with the short end, roll the dough into a tight roll about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 9 inches long. Press the seam along the length of the roll to seal it tightly. Chill at least one hour or overnight.
To freeze the roll unbaked: Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap, then in heavy aluminum foil. Label with the date and contents and freeze for up to 3 months.
To Bake and Serve: Defrost the roll in the refrigerator until it slices easily but is still firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Line 2 shiny baking sheets with heavy aluminum foil. Unwrap the defrosted roll and use a large, sharp knife to cut it into 1/4-inch rounds. Place the cookies 3/4 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time for about 12 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the bottoms are light brown and glazed with sugar. Reverse the baking sheet after 7 minutes to ensure that the cookies bake evenly. Use a metal spatula to lift a cookie to check its bottom. The cookies will puff slightly as they bake but will not spread. Immediately transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Bake the second pan of cookies. Serve within 3 days.
This is an original post to Mad About Multiples by Gemini Crickets club member, Laura Leafstrand.