From Scratch Fast Families: The Connaughtons
Brady and Matt Connaughton live in Shark River Hills, NJ, with their three very active boys. Even though their schedules are packed, Brady cooks most nights for the family, often sourcing from her garden or farm share (rock star!). You’re going to love her Lemon Ginger Chicken recipe, which, parden my French, is so freaking delicious! It might look simple, but the flavor is phenomenal from the lemon, ginger and garlic, and the meat is supremely moist. Brady serves it with a stellar Parmesan Quinoa—this is the recipe to convince picky kids, and adults, to eat their quinoa. This is the perfect back-to-school meal for active families. Thank you to Brady and her family for joining us this week!
Tell me a bit about you and your family.
Matt and I are both attorneys. Matt works full time out of the house at a law firm, and I work 20-30 hours a week for law firm, mostly from home. We have 3 boys: Finn (8), Will (4 ½), and Mikey (2). We are VERY busy between work, school and activities. Finn and Will both play soccer for different teams, and both boys also play baseball for the same team. Mikey goes to a babysitter 4 days a week so that I can work. We also have an old hound dog, Kia who is 13ish, as well as 4 chickens for eggs: Doggie, Ready Freddy, Lucky and Althea.
Are there any picky eaters or food restrictions in the house?
No food restrictions, but some pickiness. Finn is pretty good, and while he generally scoffs at any food at first glance, he will most of the time try (and often finish) everything on his plate. Will eats very little meat with the exception on an occasional organic hot dog or chicken. Mikey is pretty flexible as he is still young, but I sense some of the 2 year old pickiness seeping in.
Do you have an overall food philosophy?
The more fruits and veggies the better. We recently undertook a no store-bought bread initiative. I baked all of our bread from December through the end of April (with the exception of mass amounts of rye for a St. Paddy’s day party). Every Sunday was breadmaking day—generally whole wheat or honey whole wheat (for the kids’ school sandwiches), then once a week I would bake 2-4 loaves of sourdough, freezing 2 of the loaves. It was great. I ended the initiative since it is summer and we eat much less bread. My kids love raw veggies and lots of fruit, so I always keep apples and raw veggies on hand. Now that it’s summer and the squash and blueberries are plentiful, we do lots of baking together—muffins, breads, etc. The kids always love to eat things that they have had a hand in making. We try to eat as locally as possible, and we have our own veggie garden and our own chickens for eggs.
How do you plan your meals for the week? Do you plan ahead, or fly by the seat of your pants?
I almost always plan ahead due to our busy schedules. From May-November we belong to Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA, and we get our veggies from there once a week. We also have a wonderful garden, so depending on what I have in the there at any given time, it will get factored into the weekly meals. I shop primarily at Wegmans for fruit, meats, and other “stuff”. I make a general list of dinners for each day of the week, and lunches are usually leftovers or bagels, fruit and yogurt with local honey.
Describe a typical morning in your household. What’s for breakfast?
Mornings are insane with getting everyone ready. For breakfast we either have eggs, cereal, or bagels. We always have at least one fruit—typically berries or bananas, and water to drink. We drink water for every meal and coffee (absolutely necessary!!) for the adults.
What about lunch? Bagged lunch(es) or take-out?
Always bagged. The kids typically get bagels with cream cheese or butter, leftover homemade mac n’ cheese or pizza, along with a fruit or veggie—typically berries or carrots or snap peas (depends on what’s in season)—along with a cookie or crackers (store bought usually) and water.
What’s your dinner routine? What are some of your family’s favorite meals?
We make our own pizza dough and the kids love making their own pizzas (either plain cheese or with pineapple). They also love my homemade mac n’ cheese, with broccoli on the side or string beans. Another favorite is tacos, though Will won’t eat the meat. We get organic grass-fed beef or organic ground turkey and I mix the seasoning myself. We serve them with lots of fixings, such as cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and beans. Another favorite that has a do-ahead element is lemon ginger chicken with quinoa, string beans and coleslaw [see recipe below]. Finally, Finn, Matt and I are obsessed with From Scratch Fast’s recipe for Jeff’s Crab Cakes with Sriracha Remoulade. We eat this a few times a month and have shared it with many of our neighbors. It is always requested at parties! We always have raw veggies on the table at dinnertime—celery, carrots, cucs, red peppers and snow peas. That way, if they are snacking on veggies and don’t eat all of their dinner, I know that they have at least gotten some good stuff in those growing, always moving bodies.
What are some of your biggest challenges in getting dinner on the table? How often do you eat-in verses go out or pick up take-out?
The biggest challenge is cooking something that everyone will eat, then eating together and doing it before we have one (or more) meltdown. With all of the sports, quick and easy but healthy and wholesome is the number one priority. We only eat out once a week (if that), generally at a local joint (or delivery pizza—we are in NJ!!). All other nights I cook.
Where do you find your meal inspiration? What are some of your favorite cookbooks, websites or blogs?
Honestly, I go to the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook, your blog, food groups on Facebook, and just my general repertoire. My mom also gives me ideas and inspiration since she cooks every night too.
Lemon Ginger Chicken
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from about ½ lemon)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 lemons)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 large cloves garlic , grated on microplane
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger (from about ½-inch knob)
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 organic chicken , cut into 6 pieces (2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 breasts)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil (such as grapeseed or canola)
- 1 lemon , thinly sliced
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. If you’re cooking the chicken right away (as opposed to refrigerating it in the marinade), pierce the pieces all over with a fork. Place the chicken in a large zip top bag and add the lemon mixture. Toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 3 hours. Do Ahead: The marinated chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
- Preheat the oven to 450˚F.
- Sprinkle the flour over the chicken pieces in the bag, and toss to coat. Heat the olive and vegetable oils in a large oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Arrange the chicken in the hot skillet, skin side down. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 4-6 minutes. Turn the chicken over and scatter the lemon slices on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken), or until the chicken is cooked through (the internal temperature in the thighs should read 165˚F and the juices should run clear). Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before serving—you can serve it straight out of the skillet!
- 1 cup quinoa , rinsed well in cold water
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 large garlic clove , grated on microplane
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- Handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese , or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Put the quinoa in a medium saucepan and add the broth, garlic and lemon zest. Season with salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer; cover and cook 14-16 minutes, or until the liquid has absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove the pot from the heat let sit 5 minutes to steam (if you’re not quite ready to serve after 5 minutes, just keep it covered to stay warm). Once you’re ready to serve, add a handful (or to taste) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.