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Catherine Newman's Ricotta and Spinach Frittatine


Here's a funny-well-not-really anecdote for you:

Our morning routine is very rushed. Hugo has to be up by 6:10 at the latest to have enough time to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush his teeth and get out the door (with shoes, jacket and scarf on, preferably) by 6:55 to catch the school bus. While the boys have their breakfast, their dad's showering and getting dressed (he has to leave at the same time Hugo does and has a nearly 2-hour commute each way), I'm chatting with them, packing Hugo's snack box and pounding down some kind of hot drink to keep from falling over.

Hugo's favorite weekday breakfast are toasted English muffins with peanut butter and jam. We don't always have English muffins around, and on those days, he's happy enough to settle for whatever bread we do have (it's usually some kind of dark German rye thing), as long as it's spread with PB & J. (Occasionally, he will decide it's butter instead of PB that he wants. That is fine!) Bruno's favorite breakfast is oatmeal with frozen blueberries. That child will plow through an adult portion first thing, then basically refuse to eat more than a bite of this and that at lunch and dinner. Small mercies.

Now, this morning, since there were no English muffins, I decided to make oatmeal for both boys. I do have to grudgingly admit that I sort of had an inkling (oh, ho ho ho) there was going to be some kind of pushback (ha ha haaa), so I pumped up the oatmeal with chopped apples and cinnamon and brown sugar (which I usually never add), added frozen blueberries for good measure, even drizzled the top with maple syrup. All their favorite things! What lucky boys! They were definitely going to gobble this up, weren't they? I ignored my misgivings, dished it up, place the bowls on the table and...then...

Both children contemplated their breakfast. Hugo made a face and asked me where his English muffin was. "There are none. This is your breakfast today!" I grinned in what I hoped was an encouraging way, but I suspect was slightly more maniacal. Who knows; I was still feeling pretty chipper in that moment. You know, pride cometh before a fall and all that. I mean, Hugo used to love oatmeal with blueberries, just like his baby brother! Two years ago, yeah, but still! What could go wrong?

He took a tentative bite, while Bruno dug in briefly. Then Hugo put down his spoon and refused to eat anymore. Bruno watched and followed suit. And then my head exploded. Parenthood! Ain't it a kick in the head?


The reason I'm telling you this is because I feel like the recipe I actually want to share today is exactly the same kind of thing as that lovely oatmeal: on the face of it absolutely harmless and tasty, yet still a total minefield waiting to happen. Nevertheless, I promise you that you will want these little ricotta-spinach frittatine for your back pocket. Even if your crazy children won't eat them, YOU will. And you can bring them to any school buffet, bake sale, book club potluck, WHATEVER, and they'll be the first thing eaten and grown-ups will pester you for the recipe. Ask me how I know.

The recipe comes from my beloved Catherine Newman, who writes a column about low-carb recipes for, which is a website for people with diabetes, which I do not have, but Catherine's recipes are always very good and also family-friendly so I follow her everywhere she goes and cook almost anything she tells me to. Especially these mini cheese-and-vegetable frittatine.

The frittatine are made with eggs, a lot of grated cheese, ricotta and some vegetables and herbs. I've used spinach and broccoli, both to rave reviews. I've used grated Cheddar and grated Gouda, both to rave reviews. What I'm trying to say is that they are very flexible things. They're easy to make, bake up cute in muffin tins and store well in the fridge. I love how portable they are and how much flavor is packed into each little round. I use less ricotta and cheese than Catherine does, but to no ill-effect. These are versatile and easy and I love them, yes, I do.

The first time I made them, they were for a school buffet, but I gave the first two to Hugo and Bruno to see if they liked them. I was pretty sure they would! Spoiler alert: They did not. Fair enough. Luckily, I thought they were scrumptious. And at the school buffet, they were gone in minutes. Vindication! A pathetic one, but still. My sense is that if your children like cheese and scrambled eggs, there's a good chance they'll like them. But they might not. In that case, try to be better than me and just appreciate the fact that you now have a batch of delicious cheesy vegetable egg bites for your breakfast all week.

Off to buy more English muffins, maybe two packages, now.

Catherine Newman's Ricotta and Spinach Frittatine
Makes 12 mini frittatine
Adapted from

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 eggs
250 grams (8.8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
1 heaping cup grated cheddar, gouda or mozzarella
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
3 cups chopped baby spinach (around 6 ounces) or equal amount of steamed, chopped broccoli or frozen spinach
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (like parsley, chives, basil or a lesser amount of thyme or marjoram)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 and grease the 12 wells of a standard muffin tin.

2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, then add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the cheeses and stir. Add the vegetables, the herbs, and the salt and pepper, and stir well.

4. Divide the mixture in the muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes until puffed, deeply golden, and set. Eat right away or refrigerate.

Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Dijon Mustard and Herbs

Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Mustard and Herbs

Thank you all so much for your incredibly warm and lovely messages! It's so nice to be back and know that all of you are out there still reading.

Today I'm going to tell you about how I deal with the daily grind of WTF AM I MAKING FOR DINNER TONIGHT that makes even the most eager cook a little, shall we say, itchy. I don't know how many of you here are also following me on Instagram, where I mentioned this new way of meal planning back in January, so forgive me if this is a little repetitive, but I really do find it such a helpful way of working through the constant and unrelenting chore of having dinner on the table every evening that perhaps it can be useful to a few of you too.

Here's what I do: rather than sit down and write down a whole menu for each day of the week when meal planning (which was time consuming and eventually felt very...uninteresting and difficult), I decided to assign specifically themed meals to specific days of the week in a much looser fashion. Like this: On Mondays, we eat pasta. On Tuesdays, it's beans. Wednesdays are for chicken. Thursdays are soups or stews. Fridays is for fish. (Weekends are a free-for-all.) What this allows me is much more flexibility and also more rigidity at the same time, but in a way that feels both freeing and safe. Do you know what I mean?

Since Mondays are for pasta, it means that the week starts out very gently. All I need to do is make a pot of tomato sauce, which I could do in my sleep, and some green vegetable (sometimes, yes, it's just a sliced cucumber because I am only human, other times it's steamed broccoli or boiled chard). Dinner is very easy and almost always drama-free, because the boys both eat noodles and everyone's happy. It allows me to start the week off feeling somewhat capable and in control.

Tuesday is bean day and I usually end up making some kind of simple bean situation in the Instant Pot. This recipe (using Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, for example!) is wonderful and Bruno will eat at least three helpings of it. WHUT. I want to marry that recipe. The boys eat it plain or with a bit of bread and Hugo will have some avocado with it. We top it with cilantro and hot sauce and pickled onions and avocado. Sometimes, though, life is too crazy even for the Instant Pot and then I make a red or yellow lentil soup, which takes about 20 minutes and while Hugo will bellyache about it, both kids will usually eat it. (Obviously, it helps if I slice a hot dog into the soup, but I don't always do that because I don't want them to get used to hot dogs on the regular because I am MEAN and also sort of stupid seeing as we live in Germany and they already are used to eating them all the time everywhere gaaaaah.)

Wednesday is Chicken Day. Sometimes I make this Korean chicken, sometimes I make breaded cutlets (but let's be honest, rarely, because that set-up is way too time-consuming and annoying at this point in my life - I mean, keep in mind that unless there's a second adult here, I can't set foot in the kitchen without Bruno behind me dismantling literally everything in sight or physically hanging off of me or Hugo asking if he is finally allowed to watch something NO YOU CANNOT AND IF YOU ASK ME ONE MORE TIME CHILD I SWEAR TO...), but recently I discovered Diana Henry's baked chicken and it is so delicious and so easy and so...satisfying and impressive and perfect that it makes me happy every time I make it.

You make a soft little mixture of Dijon mustard, butter and herbs (she calls for tarragon, but I end up usually just using a bit of dried sage or nothing at all), then squash this all over a bunch of chicken thighs. Then you sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and stick it in the oven until browned and crisp. That's it. The crispy top pleases the children, the herbs and mustard make it sophisticated enough to not give you an existential crisis and it's on the table (from start to finish!) in 40 minutes. (The active time of 5 minutes is fast enough that I can trick the kids into leaving me alone while I do it.) SO GOOD.

It's one of only two recipes actually printed out and pasted to my refrigerator, that's how much I love it. (The other one is for this, but with yogurt/milk instead of buttermilk.)

The original recipe specifies chicken thighs (skinless, but bone-in) and it is definitely the way to go. HOWEVER, because of course, I have also tried this with skinless, boneless chicken breasts and while it's not nearly as juicy and toothsome and rich, it's totally fine. Just reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes and then use the broiler for 3 minutes at the end to brown and crisp the breadcrumbs. (The photos in this post are of the chicken breasts.)

The recipe comes from Diana's chicken cookbook and is definitely, positively, absolutely worth the price of the book. For some godforsaken reason, I only own this book on my Kindle, which drives me fucking bananas, because if I want to cook anything else from it, I have to keep re-entering my password and peering at the phone and then my children see me on the phone and then they WANT the phone and my fingers are dirty and stop screaming and oh my god no you can't have a snack and you can't have the phone and please go play and ten more minutes and I hate everything and I really don't understand why cookbooks even come in E-book form, it's so dumb.

Mustard butter

Thursdays are soup/stew days, which means that sometimes we eat some sort of bean stew twice a week, but there are worse things, yes? Usually it's some sort of puréed vegetable soup and bread. Thank goodness for German bread, which is about 80% of what Bruno eats in total, period. And sometimes, depending on just how much of a surrender week it is, it's the day the boys get pastina in broth (as in bouillon cube or Better Than Bouillon) and I fantasize about being capable of drinking three glasses of wine at dinner (I can't even do one glass, just so you know, which seems really unfair).

Fridays are fish (and frozen peas). Either I stick a bunch of frozen fillets in tomato sauce and serve over rice from the rice cooker, or boiled potatoes if I'm feeling charitable, or it's fish sticks. And then my husband roots around in the pantry looking for the instant mashed potatoes because you can't possibly have one without the other and I decide that instead of dinner, I'm having a bath and listening to a podcast and no, please don't follow me, in fact, forget I even exist, someone else is in charge now good night and good luck.

Please, PLEASE, you well-meaning, lovely, wonderful people, do not tell me how quickly this phase will be over and that I'll miss it one day. PLEASE. I am fully aware of that. As in every day. It sometimes keeps me up at night! It also does not usually make me feel better in the moment. You know? Sometimes you just have to live it and be frustrated and tired and happy when the kids are finally asleep and that's okay too.

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Diana Henry's Baked Chicken with Dijon Mustard and Herbs
Serves 4
Adapted from A Bird in the Hand

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
A couple of pinches of chopped fresh herbs (like tarragon, thyme, oregano, basil, what have you)
1 3/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp bread crumbs (from stale, not fresh, bread)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Mash the Dijon mustard with the tarragon and butter until combined. Put the chicken into a roasting pan (or a baking dish) and brush or use your fingers to spread the mustard mixture onto the chicken. Season, then press on the bread crumbs.

2. Roast in the hot oven for 35 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through. Check this by piercing the flesh near the bone, with the tip of a sharp knife, in one of the larger pieces. The juices should run clear with no trace of pink. If not, cook for a few minutes more then test again. The top should be a lovely golden color.

3. Serve immediately with the cooking juices that have gathered around the chicken.