Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Make Your Own Happiness (Meal)

Let me ask you this. Are you and the kids truly happy after dining on the over-processed contents of that adorable carton, that’s paired, too often, with 3 chocolate chip cookies for just $1 (how could you say no, right?), plus the latest Blockbuster inspired toy? I bet if you reached deep down inside yourself for the answer, you’d say no. You’d say your children or grandchildren deserve something better than this for lunch or dinner—something that doesn’t wind up as headline news for containing so little actual meat, the law is closing in. Having just said all that, I want my fellow moms and Nanas to know I cast no judgment : ) We’ve all been there!

But Is it Really So Bad? Let’s Look at the #s

But, let’s scrutinize the contents in that happy little carton. The nugget Happy Meal has 510 calories, 22 grams sugar and 23 grams of fat! Nuggets or a hamburger is the main course, French fries or apples with a caramel dipping sauce the “side dish”, a small beverage to wash down that little package of faux animal crackers, and last but never least, the aforementioned toy that lured all of you there in the first place. If you brought 2 kids to the fast food restaurant, you probably paid $10 for all this; if you brought their little friends along, about $20—you get the idea. It’s a parental routine (some may even call it a rut) that researchers say American preschoolers are asking for every day—and teens once a week.

Designer Lunch Sacks

So, how do you get the kids to join you in being happy about leaving fast food in the rear view, as you drive home to much healthier (and infinitely tastier!) food that gives you a bigger bang for your buck? If you want to imitate the Happy Meal, you can buy plain white lunch sacks at places like Michael’s Craft Store and have your kids doodle away—then stuff the bags with fresh, healthy WONDERFUL food.

You’ll Save “Bread” When You Make It at Home!

Certain kitchen gadgets help you produce enough delicious food, to create plenty of leftovers to pack away for later. Once you have a budget priced bread making machine, it’s not just the Golden Arches you’ll be leaving in your rear view, but bagel franchises and soup & sandwich joints as well. These folks think they’ve got the last word on artisan breads. Oh, contraire my friends! Once you use The West Bend Hi-Rise Breadmaker (a top seller at Wal-Mart), and now one of Nana’s Favorite Things, you’ll be whipping up warm fragrant batches of my Parmesan Thyme Bread in no time—if you’re not using it for sandwiches, the recipe includes a side bar that lets you make bruschetta.

The Best Burger You Ever Ate, Plus Another Kitchen Must Have

What you serve between this herb encrusted, savory bread is up to you, but if you want to create a happy meal in the truest sense, you’ll make my Freshly Ground Beef Burgers. I swear to you, when these cured burgers are served on Parmesan Thyme Bread, you will declare that you have just eaten the best hamburger of your entire life!

To achieve the perfect burger—as well as set aside enough prepared meat that your family can enjoy in weeks to come—you need the second kitchen gadget that’s destined for a top spot on my list of Kitchen Must Haves: a good food grinder; click this link to see what I consider “good”. The recipe for my freshly ground burgers calls for 4 pounds beef chuck roast, carefully trimmed of most of its fat and seasoned with kosher salt; you’ll refrigerate it in a sealed bag overnight for 3 days, then run it through your food grinder twice; then and only then do you form those heavenly patties! Now, of course I prefer to grill these delicious pieces of meat in order to fully carry out the TLC they’ve received, but you can also cook them in a skillet with a little canola oil.

Make my REAL DEAL FRIES with ketchup of course to round out your happy meal, which, for good measure should have Chocolate Lovers Turtle Brownies for dessert.

As for the toy…almost everyone I know—anyone with kids, that is—has amassed a giant bag of old Happy Meal toys by now; pull out a really old one, serve it along side this fun, 4 star meal, and see if your child catches you in the act of tacky recycling. I’m willing to bet they’ll be too busy thanking you for this dinner to notice!


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