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Video: Kid-friendly meals for busy moms

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    >>> this morning in "today's kitchen," what's for dinner? how about parent-friendly solutions. katie is the author of the "mom 100 cookbook" filled with go-to reci recipes. katie , good to see you.

    >> great to see you. thank you.

    >> this is a great idea. you know, you get into a rut. you're doing the same recipes over and over . what's great is they're quick and they're all in one skillet.

    >> exactly, one skillet to clean and quick and easy. everybody gets stuck doing the same five or so recipes. here's two to shake it up. we've browned a couple pounds of ground beef .

    >> you could use turkey.

    >> turkey, absolutely, chicken. we'll heat up a little olive oil in the same skillet that we browned the beef in. and if you would just add that in.

    >> what do you got?

    >> onions, carrots, peppers and garlic. right in the skillet. and we gist sauoug just saute this for f our or five minutes, get it a little tender. the ground brief which has been drained right back in the skillet. this is great. i'm not doing anything. this does not happen to me at home. you can come on over.

    >> the great thing is you're getting some vegetables in it.

    >> absolutely, vegetables are built right in. speaking of which, we have a couple cans of crushed tomatoes. those go right in as well. and we have worcestershire sauce . oregano. a little bit of chili powder . if your kids are heat averse, you can skip it but it adds a nice little kick. also, if you would add two cups of water. that goes right into the skillet. now, in realtime, we would simmer this down for about five minutes. here's the great part. the pasta also goes right into the skillet.

    >> uncooked.

    >> uncooked. that's going to cook right in the sauce.

    >> so you cover it up?

    >> we cover this up. let it do its thing for about ten minutes. and then after ten minutes, this is what you have.

    >> nice and bubbly.

    >> exactly. and then the last thing --

    >> oh, cheese.

    >> two cups of cheddar just sprinkle it right over top.

    >> two cups. four would be better.

    >> it would. and now you cover it. it would be better.

    >> wouldn't it, though?

    >> let it sit. the heat will melt the cheese right there.

    >> oh, oh! wow! you know, you don't even have to bring plates to the table. just set this in the middle and give everybody a spoon.

    >> you definitely want to put this in the middle of your table, no question. over here, a little more elegant but also still in one dish. we're doing chicken picatta . and first you take your chicken breast and you just dredge it in a little bit. you can poof up the flour like that. if not, it's your choice. dredge it in a little flour. then saute it in the skillet and set aside . you don't cook them all the way through, but you could if you have a kid who's a little finicky, just wants one plain chicken breast . now in the same skillet, sauteing up some garlic and onion just until tender. and then we're going to add a little bit of white wine .

    >> deglaze the pan a little bit.

    >> exactly. and some chicken broth . and then the chicken breasts will -- if you can hand me the tongs, that would be awesome.

    >> we're running out a little bit.

    >> so the chicken breasts go right back in. finish cooking in the broth. the breasts go onto the platter. the sauce is reducing. we finish it up with a little lemon juice , a little capers and some butter.

    >> you could even serve it whole like that.

    >> exactly.

    >> with some rice.

    >> spoon the sauce right over it like that.

    >> you've got great brownies for dessert.

    >> one pot.

    >> katie , we'll put the recipes on our website.

    >> great. thank you.

TODAY recipes
updated 4/4/2012 8:07:15 PM ET 2012-04-05T00:07:15

Recipe: One-skillet cheesy beef and macaroni

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped red, yellow, orange or green bell pepper (about 1⁄4-inch pieces)
  • 1 cup peeled chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder (optional but recommended)
  • Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3⁄4 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
Preparation

Get a huge pan, a 12- or 13-incher (best pan in the world if you cook for a group regularly), make a vat of this, and keep it in the fridge. If you don’t have a huge honking pan, cut the recipe in half. If you have bigger kids who are constantly running in and out of the house with their friends, all of them starving and in need of fuel before or after soccer practice, then you, my friend, may never again be without a pot of this awaiting reheating and inhalation. My sister-in-law Lisa, with her three large boys and revolving cast of visiting teenagers, swears by it. It is reminiscent of something that rhymes with Flamberger Felper, but it’s better and it’s yours. Here’s how to make it:

1. Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat (for this full recipe, it should be a deep 12-inch skillet). Add the beef and cook it until browned, stirring until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Place the browned beef in a strainer and let the fat drain off, then set the beef aside.

2. Wipe out the skillet, add the oil, and heat it over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Return the beef to the skillet and add the basil, oregano, tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, if using, and 2 cups of water. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and let come to a simmer. Add the elbow macaroni, stir, and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or black pepper as necessary.

4. Sprinkle the cheddar on top, then cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melty, about 1 minute. Serve this right out of the skillet.

Serving Size

Serves 8 with a lot of leftovers, which you will be grateful for (so I guess it really serves 10 to 12).

Recipe: Chicken Piccata-ed or plain

Ingredients
  • 2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (about 2 pounds total)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots, or 1⁄3 cup minced onion
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon rinsed and chopped capers
  • Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (optional), for serving
Preparation

This is absolutely one of my fallback dishes for entertaining families when I don’t know how finicky the kids’ palates are. My kids usually eat the grown-up version but occasionally one of them has a relapse of sorts and declares the sauce (which he loved the week prior) to be unfit for human consumption. Suddenly the simplified version of chicken breasts and rice or potatoes with no sauce is all he will touch. This is exactly the kind of flexible option that doesn’t make the cook (a.k.a., you) nuts and vaguely irritated since you will make one dish, just one, that allows the blander eaters to enjoy the meal without rendering the adults bored out of their skulls. Serve this with rice, mashed potatoes or any starch you love. A simple salad and some sautéed green beans will round it out nicely. Here’s how to make it:

1. Place the flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a wide shallow bowl and use a fork to mix them together. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour mixture.

2. Heat a very large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 2 or 3 of the chicken breasts, whatever will fit comfortably in a single layer in the skillet, and cook them until golden brown and almost cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the browned breasts to a plate and repeat with another tablespoon of oil and 2 or 3 more breasts until all of the chicken is cooked to this stage.

3. Don’t clean the skillet! Add the shallots and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and the chicken broth and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the slightly undercooked chicken (any pieces that are going to be served with the sauce) to the pan and let them simmer to finish cooking, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Add the lemon juice, butter, and capers to the skillet and stir until the butter is melted. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, unless you plan to serve some of the chicken breasts plain. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Note: To pound chicken breasts, place them between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or a mallet to firmly but gently pound the breasts until they are about 1/2-inch thick throughout.

Serving Size

Serves 6.

Recipe: Fudgy one-pot brownies

Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing the baking pan (optional)
  • Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Preparation

It had been dawning on me that the surest way to achieve brownie nirvana, the kind of fudgy chocolatiness that wimpy people say is too chocolate-y (and then go on to polish off another brownie or two), is best achieved by combining cocoa powder and melted chocolate. During this period of intense brownie contemplation I had lunch with Melissa Clark, food writer and mom to young Dahlia, and mentioned my brownie quest. She thought she had a recipe somewhere with dueling chocolates, and she e-mailed it to me that afternoon. I tinkered with it a bit, determined to decode a perfect brownie that could be mixed right in the saucepan. This is the one-pot result. Fifteen minutes of hands-on time, max, and well worth every minute.

I am also ridiculously pleased to say that this recipe shaves off two more common brownie-making steps. Often a recipe will tell you to chop the chocolate before melting it. Here you just make sure to melt it with the butter over low heat, and the chocolate will dissolve gently into the butter, without scorching. Also, you can skip the whole double boiler thing if you keep the heat low enough, don’t stray too far, and stir frequently. This saves you washing a chopping board, a knife (or a food processor bowl and blade), and the second double boiler pan. You will want to celebrate this with a brownie. Here's what to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 13-by-9–inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place the butter and chocolate in a medium-size saucepan over low heat and let melt together, stirring until smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, sugar and salt, then blend in the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring to mix quickly so they don’t have a chance to cook at all before they are blended in. Blend in the flour.

3. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cool, cut them into 12 or 24 squares.

Serving Size

Makes 12 huge or 24 reasonably sized brownies.

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