Chicken Roasted with Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts from My Pantry ShelfWeekday meals have become a bit uncivilized these days.  Blame it on the two working parents, the baseball games, or just plain lack of inspiration.  Whatever the cause there  have been a lot of simple salad/ taco/ kitchen sink meals pumping out of my kitchen, except of course for this meal.  Enter my new go-to “I-need-a-super-quick-meal-that-actually-feels -and-tastes-like-a-meal-worthy-of-my-family-sitting-around-the-table-for.”

Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts could not be easier.  Make a quick paste of garlic, oil, salt, and herbs to rub over the chicken.  Toss the potatoes and vegetables with oil, salt and pepper, then slide the whole thing in the oven and walk away.  Plenty of time to help the kids with homework, referee the driveway soccer game, coax the children out of the highest branches of the tree, or if your life is a bit more relaxing than mine, enjoy a glass of wine and a chapter of your favorite book.  The chicken roasts up tender with the crispiest of skin.  The potatoes and vegetables cook perfectly in the rendered chicken fat.  Next time I will make this with thighs and drumsticks to appease the little man of the family.  The dish is not only a great weeknight treat, but would be a fantastic dish to serve for company since all the work is done in advance.

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Day by day, our children are taking over our lives with a force that eclipses their small stature.  First was the living room, invading the space with a pulsing tide of toys and other detritus.  Slowly their influence oozed into our music, favoring 90’s grunge rock for no explicable reason.  The most recent conquest was the meal plan.  Though they are both enthusiastic eaters of most dishes I serve, they now each direct the selection of one dinner a week.  What seemed benign at first quickly spiraled into many successive nights of pesto pasta, hamburgers, and spaghetti and meatballs.  My kids, who would eat anything, had a very short list of items they would actually request.  Luckily with some gentle encouragement, they happily incorporated some new meal variations that keep them (and their parents) satisfied.

Baked Chicken Flautas are crispy, crunchy flour tortillas wrapped around a moist, mildly spiced bean and chicken filling.  They hit on all of my children’s favorite notes: finger foods, beans, cheese.  They are tasty enough to appeal to the adult set as well.  Whip up some Chipotle Salsa for a dip to make these flutes really sing.  Feel free to change the filling around.  Not a fan of beans?  Leave them out and increase the chicken.  What to make them vegetarian?  Omit the chicken and add crumbled tofu or corn to the mix.  Really, anything you would throw in a taco can be rolled up in these tortillas and baked.  We ate these for dinner, but they would be great as a party appetizer as well!  So, how about you?  What are the family pleasing meals that grace your table?

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Each year when the air turns cool, we start to crave hearty warm stews. This is  invariably one of the first ones I make of the season.  This year, I happen to have a huge bucket of olives from my first olive fermentation experiment (more on that later), so this was a natural to put in the rotation.   Tender chicken and hearty potatoes tossed with artichoke hearts and bitter olives sit in a pool of garlic lemon sauce.  This stew is at once bright and acidic, as well as hearty and nourishing. What is not to like? Many times this recipe has been a hit at our dinner table.  It is also great for lunch or as a warm meal to bring to a friend in need.  You can also make it a day ahead and reheat it when you are ready.

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We recently lost a chicken, which made me think of how fortunate we have been since our children were born not to lose any family or friends that they are close to.  This presents a challenge though, in how to teach our children of the role of death in life and of grief and how one continues on in the face of it.  But then, is that not what this season is all about?  The dying of summer and light leading us into the cool introspective winter.  The death of one season and the birth of another.

If one looks beyond what Halloween has become for many- an excuse for sugar indulgence or a chance to dress as a mass murderer or a whore, this time is an opportunity to commune with those who have passed on from life into death.    Our ancestors, our contemporaries, our friends who are no longer among the living.  The Mexican holiday of El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is especially intriguing.   I love the imagery of the brightly decorated skulls that signify the integral part that death plays in life.  We act this out with each meal, taking the life and energy contained in plants and animals and bringing it into our bodies to fuel our own existence.

So, while looking at some pictures of celebrations of Dia de los Muertos, my son and I began to talk of death.  I told him how death was a part of life and that it need not be a scary thing.  That all that is living must one day die (like our carved pumpkins destined for the compost),but that death would fuel the beginning of new life.  He nodded and agreed, reminding me of how incredibly sane and stable children are and how grateful I am that my life is blessed with two very special little people.

Chicken Mole is a perfect dish for Dia de los Muertos.  A thick sauce, rich with chiles, nuts, and the signature chocolate, bathes chicken as it slowly cooks and absorbs the luscious flavors.  This is a special meal, requiring a bit of time to prepare the sauce.  Feel free to make it ahead and keep in the refrigerator or freeze.  It is worth every step to create this incredible sauce.  Serve Chicken Mole with simple rice.

Note: The mole is also excellent with turkey.  Try it as an unexpected gravy on Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!

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We only grew one tomatillo plant in our garden this summer.  Based on our past success with these, I did not expect that we would harvest very many fruits.  So I was dumbstruck the other day when I went to harvest.  We had so many tomatillos that I had to rally the kids to hand over their sand buckets so we could fill them with fruit.  We harvested over 4 gallons of tomatillos from one plant!

Tomatillos are a funny fruit.  The firm green fruit is encased in a papery husk that is removed before cooking.  The fruit itself is sticky to the touch, though this substance washes off easily.  Though they are sometimes confused with green tomatoes, tomatillos are actually from a different plant family.  Tomatillos are best known for their role in green salsa.  One of our favorite preparations with tomatillos is to make Grilled Tomatillo Salsa, the other is this stew.

Chicken Chile Verde with Hominy is a perfect way to celebrate the tomatillo.  Cook them up with peppers, onions, and cilantro ,then braise the browned chicken and hominy in this tangy sauce.  The stew is warm and nourishing, yet the flavors are light from the tart  tomatillos.   Do not forget a squeeze of lime over the top at the last minute for a bright, acidic note.  This stew can stand alone, but serve with a simple slaw and some warm tortillas for a complete meal.

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