Happily back in the kitchen!

It was a long weekend, away from my family for most of the time, with no time to cook, even if I did end up coming home sooner than expected each day. My husband took care of the meals and the children for the weekend, leaving me free to focus on my first aid training (which I did not find very informative.)

So I was very happy to get back to my family and my kitchen this morning (yes, in that order) and had promised my little guy that he and I would make brownies together this morning. I had been wanting to try out the egg-less brownie recipe I had found at All Recipes, and needing to spend some one on one time with my son was just the reason I needed to make them.

Most substitutions I've read about for eggs involve apple sauce, bananas or gelatin. So I was surprised to see this recipe where the substitution was 1/3 cup of flour, cooked with 1 cup of water until thick. Sound enough principal, so I tried it.

I am not sure I will be trying it again.

The brownies came out alright, the batter was thick and chocolatey (and since it was egg free, the spatula was lickable for my little helper.) When they were cooled, they looked like dense, fudgey brownies. Both my children liked them, which is good since they were for them, but I didn't like them. I found them gummy and lacking in chocolate flavor, despite the 2/3 cup cocoa powder in them. I doubt adding chocolate chips into the batter would have helped much.

However, mission accomplished: one more egg-free treat for the lunch box, and one morning spent with my son.

Next I wanted to tackle making focaccia. I've been reading various recipes everywhere, on alot of blogs, in magazines and books. With my newfound like of making fresh bread, focaccia seemed the next logical step for me.

Awhile back I had dog-eared the pages of my Canadian Living magazine so I could easily locate their recipe for focaccia, the simplist of all the recipes I had seen before. Or rather, the plainest.

I did ignore some of their instructions, such as the kneading by hand portion. Afterall, I do own a kick-butt mixer for a reason! And I didn't have either bread flour or coarse salt, so I used all-purpose and kosher.

I have already had a request that this bread be put into tomorrow's lunch box, along with some soup, so that it can be dunked. It was one of the only things my oldest son ate for dinner. And the first thing my youngest son ate as well.

So they must have liked it!

I think next time I would prefer the coarse salt, less salty in flavor and more obvious in texture, plus I would probably like to add a few herbs. It was good bread, I enjoyed it, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. Now I am ready to be a bit more adventurous with it though.

So bread and dessert provided for, my next plan was for dinner. Actually, I didn't have a plan. Just something that would work with the focaccia, provide some juices for dipping. So I hit the store and wandered, without children, and took my time deciding what to make.

The first thing that sparked my imagination was chicken. That actually happened before I went in the store, carry-over from an episode of Barefoot Contessa that I watched the other day. Think juices from the chicken being mopped up by the slices of focaccia.

Next I spotted carrots. Chicken and carrots, items both of my children like and will usually eat.

Somewhere in there I thought of making orzo as a side, probably sometime after I wandered past the gourmet kitchen of my store where they had a salad made from orzo. I wanted it more simple though, so orzo with butter and cheese, which I wondered if the children would eat. They would if it was any other kind of pasta, so I was hopeful.

Then I ran accross some leeks and decided to try leeks in the orzo. I like leeks and chicken. Though my hopefullness about my children eating it did go down a fair bit. Oh well, I could always put aside some plain for them.

As I was picking up potatoes for tomorrow nights dinner, I spotted the nicest looking brussel sprouts I've seen in awhile, so into a bag they went, and dinner was set!

Then I made a minor change to the menu. All along I had planned to saute my leeks in butter and olive oil, then I figured I'd toss them with the orzo along with the grated parmesan cheese and a bit more butter. I still sauted them, but then I topped my chicken thighs with them and popped the two into the oven, covered in foil. I probably should have taken the foil off sooner, to allow the chicken to brown, but by then I'd gotten busy and forgot. Oh well, so the chicken thighs weren't browned. They were still tasty, and the leeks weren't overly crisp.

I like brussel sprouts, but generally I am the only one who eats most of them. My husband will take a few, the children like to break them apart and then say they are full, having never actually tried one (hence I had to make carrots so there was something they would eat.) I wanted them a bit different than the usual cook them, add a bit of butter, grate cheese over them. Again I was remembering a Barefoot Contessa episode. I didn't have pancetta though, so I simply sauted them in butter and olive oil, again, then added a bit of liquid, put the lid on, and let them steam themselves done. It worked, they were different. (And I preferred them the normal way, with my cheese.)

I was fairly satisfied in the end. Balanced, flavorful, fairly healthy. Lots of juices from the chicken to dip the focaccia in. And leftovers for tomorrows adult lunches.

Oh and incidentally, my children both ate their carrots, ignored the brussel sprouts, ate some chicken (which I had taken the leeks off of), and one looked at the orzo, the other took one bite. and both devoured their focaccia, without any dipping.

I'm happy to be back in the kitchen again. (Not so happy about the fussy kids part though.)

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