Stuff My Kid Eats: Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut Squash and Barley

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Lunchtime at our house can be a battle. Up until a few months ago I would change-up our lunch options rather frequently, and my daughter was usually pretty cool with it, but recently she’s discovered a new streak of independence and wants none of that. Most of the parenting books I’ve read say that toddlers should be allowed to make a couple decisions throughout the day, so I decided to let her choose her mid-day meal (within reason). But it’s always the same. “I want peanut butter sandwich – no jelly. Grapes. Carrots. Cottage Cheese. And milk, please…… Pretty please may I have it right now?!!!!” (The last part was added because it takes me longer than 5 seconds to make her lunch.) Now because I’m a mom, I always attempt to offer her a second option; “Mommy’s having blank, are you sure you don’t want some, too?” And this is where she acts as if her world is crumbling down (especially if I utter the word salad, which can single-handedly bring the child to tears). “No!” she cries, and repeats her original request in a quavery voice. I almost always acquiesce, but as we set down to eat, I notice her grubby little hand reach across the counter to steal some of my food. “Oh that’s good, Mom!” she’ll say, then abandon her sandwich and start eating off my plate. (This is why at any given moment you’ll find a neglected, half-eaten peanut butter sandwich in my refrigerator.) So, although my toddler strives so hard for her independence, she is still human, which means that the grass will always be greener on mommy’s side of the fence, and this is what’s on mommy’s side of the fence today…

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Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut Squash and Barley

This is a great lunchtime salad; it’s light, it’s healthy, and it has everything you need for a satisfying meal right in one bowl – not to mention it makes plenty of leftovers for the rest of week! Note: vegetarians, see VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS at the end of the post. (Recipe slightly adapted from Men’s Health magazine)

  • 1 cup pearl barley or farro, rinsed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. cround cumin
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups roughly torn rotisserie chicken (bones and skin removed)
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and shaved
  • 3 cups peeled and thinly cut butternut squash
  • 1 ½ cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled

Place the barley or farro in a medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 25-45 minutes (or per package instructions). Drain and cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, OJ, ginger, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Add the barley/farro, torn chicken, parsnips, squash, grapes, and parsley to the bowl; toss everything to coat with the dressing. Top with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese and serve.

VEGETARIAN MODIFICATION: Replace chicken with 1 15-oz. can of pinto beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

Stuff My Kid Eats: One-Pan Pasta

Stuff My Kid Eats

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What kid doesn’t love pasta? For that matter, what adult doesn’t love pasta? Much like soup, pasta has become a staple in our home. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s the energy-booster my toddler needs to continue terrorizing our cat* on a daily basis. With as much pasta as we eat, I’m always searching for new recipes to liven up the routine. I found this one in Martha Stewart Living a while back, and regularly change up the ingredients depending on what I have in my fridge. See VARIATIONS at the end of this post for ideas on how you can alter this dish and make it your own. (Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

One-Pan Pasta

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I have to admit, as much as I trust Martha Stewart and her very accomplished staff (not that I’m biased or anything), I was a bit skeptical when this recipe called for throwing all the ingredients into a pan and cooking them together, rather than separately. Pasta in one pot, sauce in the other, that’s how I was raised — but WOW! this is so much better. And at the end of the meal, you only have one pan to clean. Brilliant!

Serves 4

  • 12 oz. linguine
  • 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ tsp. red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4½ cups water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

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Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

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Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.

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Sidekick: The simplicity of this pasta pairs well with a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc.

VARIATIONS:

Silky Carbonara

Omit:
Basil
Mushrooms

Add:
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. water
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup cooked bacon, chopped

Beat egg yolks with water until smooth. After pasta has finished cooking, remove from heat, add egg mixture, butter, and bacon and stir until creamy. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan.

Spring Greens

Omit:
Tomatoes
Basil
Mushrooms
Red-pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Add:
1 bunch of asparagus, tender part only, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lemon
1 cup spring peas, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped

Add asparagus at the beginning with dry pasta. Meanwhile, juice and zest lemon. Once pasta has cooked for about 7 minutes, add lemon juice and peas. Stir and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 bowls and garnish with parsley and lemon zest.

Italian Chicken and Peppers

Add:
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 precooked chicken breasts, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped

Add bell peppers at the beginning with dry pasta. Once pasta has finished cooking, add diced chicken and oregano. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan.

Photo: The Toddler Terrorizing The Cat.

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