Galley-style kitchens have always suited me. The one we have in our Indiana Dunes house is efficient, practical, easy to keep clean, and fun, if a little on the cozy side, to share with my four granddaughters, Miranda, Eileen, Allison and Emily, currently ages 9 through 12. When these girls were tiny, they would perch in sisterly pairs (which is usually how they came to visit), on the two high barstool chairs that flank my butcher block counter. There they would work on their sticker books, create refrigerator art and indulge in girl talk with adoring me, while I put the evening meal together.
Food preparation-wise, we started with baking and decorating cupcakes and cookies and then moved on to chocolate-cookie refrigerator cake. In those early learning days it was all desserts, as it is in most households when you’re cooking with kids. As the girls grew older, they began to master simple knife skills, both at home and during Indiana visits, and before we knew it, they were actually cooking. Now they do meals from start to finish, with aplomb, and a little adult supervision.
Recently, I was delighted to have a weekend visit from all four girls and their mothers. The men and boys in the family were elsewhere, so it was a genuine “Girls’ Night In.” Dinner was prepared by the kids for their moms, who were not allowed near the kitchen. The menu we chose seemed ideal for the early spring weather–colorful and fresh. The cake, salad, rice and vegetables were prepared earlier in the day, leaving plenty of time to decorate the table, tackle the main course of roast chicken with blueberry sauce and the all-important garnishing, which most girls love to do. The recipes we made served six adults, so there were leftovers. Combining cold roast chicken with the rice and the broccoli salad made a lovely lunch the next day.
Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing and Blueberry Sauce*
Steamed, Buttered Asparagus
Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Raisins*
Indiana Dunes Grand Marnier Cake with Orange Garnish*
Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing and Blueberry Sauce
3 fresh chickens (2 to 2-1/2 pounds each)
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 cups cooked long-grain white and wild rice
combination (such as Uncle Ben’s)
3 to 4 tablespoons peanut oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup port wine or orange juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Garnish: Fresh green leaves or Italian parsley
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse chickens, inside and out, with cold water and pat dry. Mix seasoned salt, garlic powder and oregano in small bowl. Rub mixture into cavities of the chickens. Fill cavities loosely with the cooked rice (you may not use it all). Skewer openings or close each with a piece of orange. Brush chicken skin well with peanut oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Place birds on a rack in a roasting pan and bake uncovered on the middle rack for 1 hour. After the first 30 minutes, add chicken broth to the pan juices in the roasting pan and baste every 10 minutes until nicely browned. Chicken is done when juices run clear after thickest part of the thigh has been pierced by a sharp knife. Cover chickens lightly with foil and keep warm.
While chickens bake, combine blueberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix cornstarch with port wine or juice and add to simmering blueberry mixture. Stir in lemon rind and add more lemon juice, if desired. Simmer until mixture thickens. Keep warm and serve in a sauceboat with the chicken.
Present whole chickens on a platter garnished with fresh green leaves of Italian parsley. (After presentation, remove the legs, thighs and the breasts from the chickens with a carving knife. Serve on warm plates with some of the rice stuffing.)
6 to 8 servings
2-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1-1/2 pounds carrots, scraped and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Salt, to taste
Place potatoes and carrots separately into 2 medium-sized saucepans and cover both with lightly salted water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Drain carrots and rinse under warm water. Purée until smooth in a food processor. Drain potatoes and return to the saucepan. Add the butter and mash with a potato masher or hand-held electric mixer until fluffy. Fold in carrot purée and combine well. Season with salt to taste. (This dish can be prepared several hours in advance and kept, covered, at room temperature. It may be reheated either on the stove or in a microwave.)
Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Raisins
1 large bunch fresh broccoli, washed and cut into
2 chopped green onions, white and light green parts
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (like Hellmann’s)
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons tarragon or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
Blanch broccoli florets in rapidly boiling water until tender (4 to 5 minutes). Plunge into ice water to cool and set color; drain well. Place broccoli and green onions in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar and salt and pepper; fold gently into broccoli. Add raisins and walnuts and toss. Taste salad and add more seasoning, if necessary. Let stand, covered, for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature. (Broccoli may be prepared a day in advance and kept refrigerated. Do not add other ingredients until the day you wish to serve the salad.)
Indiana Dunes Grand Marnier Cake
Flour and butter for greasing loaf pan
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter,
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup Grand Marnier, Cointreau or orange juice
Grated zest of two oranges
Orange slices and mint leaves for garnish (we also used some daisies on the plate)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter and flour an 8-1/2-by-4-1/2-by-2-1/2-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
Sift together cake flour and baking powder and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the liqueur and zest and beat until just mixed. Gently fold in the flour mixture in 3 batches and spoon into the prepared pan.
Bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back to a gentle touch. Carefully release from the mold, and let cool on a cake rack before handling. (Cake may be baked a day before serving. After cooling, wrap well in foil or store in a tightly lidded tin.) Decorate with orange slices, fresh mint and flowers.