Stuff My Kid Eats
Food is huge part of daily life in our household. We eat it. We discuss it. We take pictures of it. We blog about it. So, it’s no surprise that as soon as my toddler wakes up in the morning, she wants to know what’s for breakfast. And not 20 minutes after breakfast, she wants to know what’s for lunch. Breakfast and lunch are her favorite meals — she usually gets to choose her main course (within reason), then is subjected to my side-dish-of-discrestion (vegetables). Now, here’s where our day falls apart: dinner. Inevitably, somewhere between lunch and our afternoon activities, she will ask, “What’s for dinner, Mommy?” Ugh! I dread this questions. I have nightmares about this question. I usually sugarcoat the answer to avoid a meltdown, and I always lead with the starch: “Rice with super yummy sausage and beans!” or “Risotto with pretty pink shrimp!” This works about 50% of the time. But, for whatever reason, if my answer contains the word chicken, she falls to the floor in tears, wailing, “Nooo, not chicken!” I don’t understand this. She loves chicken. She can eat her weight in chicken. It’s the single most popular food item that she will clear off her plate every time I serve it. EVERY. TIME.
Below is a dish, that when spoken aloud, sends my child into another universe with despair, but always inducts her into the “clean plate” club. It’s simple. It’s delicious. But it could probably use a better name; maybe “Sweet Squash with Spinach Pinwheels and (spoken softly)…chicken.” Again, good luck! I know you’ll enjoy it, hopefully your kids will, too.
Chicken Paillards with Squash and Spinach
This recipe comes to you by way of my former employer, Martha Stewart, and is an easy way to prepare deliciously tender chicken breasts. You can put your own personal touch on this versatile recipe by experimenting with other toppings such as oven-dried tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, and feta cheese; or fresh diced tomatoes & avocados with cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. (Recipe from Martha Stewart Living)
½ small kabocha squash, unpeeled, seeded and cut lengthwise into ¾-inch slices (see Tips*)
1 small red onion, cut into wedges, root end attached
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken-breasts, halved (see How To*)
Red-pepper flakes to taste
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves (from about 4 sprigs)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
You will also need:
Preheat oven to 425°. Distribute squash and onion evenly on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil, season with salt, and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer and roast until squash is tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pound chicken to a ⅛-to-¼-inch thickness. Season on both sides with salt and red-pepper flakes (see Tips*). Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Swirl in remaining Tbsp. oil, then butter. Fry sage until just crisp, about 30 seconds to 1 minute; let drain on a paper towel.
Working in 2 batches, add chicken to pan and cook until golden and cooked through, about 2 minutes per each side. Divide chicken among 4 plates and top with spinach, squash, onion, and sage.
- Cooking red-pepper flakes mellows their heat, but if you prefer, replace with fresh cracked black pepper instead. (I use red-pepper flakes, then before I cut and serve my toddler’s chicken, I scrape off the larger pieces so that she still gets the flavor without the fire.)
- If kabocha squash (pictured below) is unavailable in your supermarket, substitute acorn squash — both can be eaten with the rind, just remember to remove the stem and end piece.
*How To Halve a Chicken Breast:
To halve a chicken breast, lay the breast flat on a cutting board with the smooth side down. Using a sharp knife, cut away the small piece of meat that’s attached to the larger breast, called the “tender.” Set tender aside and freeze for another use (hint, hint…I’ll be posting a recipe for chicken tenders soon).
Turn breast over. With your knife, begin slicing the breast in half horizontally, all the way through. Repeat with second breast.
Lay 4 breast halves on a piece of plastic wrap and top with a second piece of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, pound chicken all over until you’ve reached an even thickness of about ⅛-inch.
- This dish pairs well with a Dry Riesling, which counters the slight heat from the red-pepper flakes.
- Serve chicken with red quinoa (pictured): Cook 1 cup dry red quinoa per package instructions, but replace water with chicken stock. Once cooked, mix in ¼ cup slivered almonds.