Parents Need to Eat Too

Quick & Lemony, One-Pot Roasted Chicken & Vegetables

Quick & Lemony, One-Pot Roasted Chicken & Vegetables

boneless skinless chicken breast roasted with lemon, wine, and herbs

I have mixed feelings about this recipe. Not because it’s anything less than grab-a-crust-and-wipe-the-plate tasty. More because of the sour taste in my mouth after watching my child, yet again, turn up his nose at my cooking.

It’s no surprise when he does that, and I’ve become pretty good at not caring—I make sure there’s always something on the table he’ll eat. But in this case, I got my hopes up. Harry, Stephen, and I were in the kitchen about an hour before dinnertime, and on a whim I asked the guys what I should do with the chicken in the fridge.

“Roast it!” Harry said.

“Something with lemon?” Stephen said.

“Roast it with lemon!” Harry said.

So I roasted boneless, skinless chicken breasts with lemon, just like Harry suggested. I threw in some vegetables to keep from having to think up a side dish (if I had potatoes, they would’ve gone in to make a complete meal in one pan). It tastes fantastic, tart and sweet and those crushed garlic cloves get so mellow…

This is the perfect weeknight chicken. The whole thing, from smashing the garlic to drizzling that citrusy sauce over the browned chicken in the serving platter, took about 40 minutes. If you don’t add this one to your repertoire, well, you’re missing out.

Harry didn’t even taste it. Not a single bite. I had no idea I was doing so, but by cooking the chicken in the same baking dish as the vegetables, I contaminated it. That’s a new wrinkle in his Excuses for Not Eating Mom’s Cooking. He swallowed a few forkfuls of rice, and nothing more. Stephen saw the steam coming out of my ears and shot me the Don’t Push It look. I balled my hands into such tight fists, my fingernails left little half-moons in my palms.

The rudeness kills me. In general I refuse to cook specifically for him—but in this case, it seemed like a family thing, planning dinner together. I enjoyed it. I looked forward to sitting down for a pleasant meal. And then he snubbed it. Snubbed me.

I really have to stop taking this so personally.

Quick Lemon-Roasted Chicken & Vegetables
Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, separately zested and juiced
3 sprigs thyme
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
6-8 red potatoes, cut into chunks, optional
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 3 large chunks
salt & pepper
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
cooked rice and/or crusty bread, for serving

Preheat oven to 450°F.

  1. Pour olive oil into a 13 x 9 baking dish and add the garlic, lemon zest, thyme, carrots, red pepper, optional potatoes, thyme, chicken breasts, and salt & pepper. Use your hands to toss well.
  2. Roast for 20 minutes, then add vermouth and lemon juice. Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more, until chicken is no longer pink in the center. (A meat thermometer should register 160°.) Remove thyme stems before serving.
  3. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the sauce or, if you’re not using potatoes, serve on rice.

MAKE BABY FOOD: This whole thing is safe for baby, pureed or as finger food—don’t be surprised if your kid loves the lemony sauce. One note: Because the alcohol is added towards the end, it won’t have time to cook off—transfer the sauce to a small pot and simmer for a few minutes. It’s only 1/4 cup for the entire dish, so there won’t be much alcohol left by then.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. I am going to make this dish tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe. My heart goes out to you. I know I would take it personally. Hopefully his food pickiness will pass sooner rather than later.

    1. Thanks, Paula! It will pass eventually, I know. Meanwhile, I just keep cooking.

  2. I have a new theory–what your child eats is inversely proportional to the amount of work you put into it. I bet if you half-opened a can of spaghettios, bent the lid back and handed him a spoon, Harry would have eaten every bite.

    At least, this is true in our household.

    1. That sounds like a pretty good theory, Heather. Except that this recipe took almost no work! I could’ve cooked that chicken with my eyes closed.

  3. This looks great – and it is helpful to know that mine is not the only child that makes sure to save a little bit of calculated attitude *just* for me at the end of the day 🙂

  4. My kids are grown now, so I don’t have to do this anymore….but, I had been known to wash off the chicken and my kid would eat it…even if it had been “contaminated” by baking next to vegetables. Worth a try! Tough to have to resort to this, but it might work.

  5. I feel for you. We did come up with a phrase for my children to use “it’s very interesting, thank you, but I think I’ve had enough” My husband came up with that after I got so angry when my daughter said “eeww – it looks like dog food.” It’s a good phrase for the kids to know when they are eating at a friend’s house and don’t love the meal. I always chuckle when their friend’s parents tell me how polite my girls are! I think they’ve heard the dreaded phrase! Keep cooking – he’ll start to eat it later.

  6. @Morgan, I’ve been tempted to try that. But once I open that door, I’ll end up washing all his food. Which sounds as weird to read as it would be to do…

    That’s great, @Julie! We’ve taught Harry that if he tastes something & doesn’t like it (which is pretty much all the time, with a new flavor) he should say, “Thanks, but it’s not for me.”

  7. Ah, I have a son EXACTLY like him, but I am still going to try this chicken! Our rule is that you take the same number of bites as your age. Since mine is now 5, he takes 5 bites of everything on his plate and no complaining. Also, they don’t have to be big bites…

  8. Debbie, all your words about contending with a very particular eater resonate so much. You write about food and have a son who won’t touch most of it. We’re farmers – our kid helps seed and plant and tend and pick and sort and sometime even sell the vegetables, and he cook with us all the time. But he’s still incredible picky. Reading about other people who love food, and the tough time they have with stubborn eater, reminds me we’re not alone. And knowing Harry is a good bit older than our little guy reminds me I don’t know how long we’ll be contending with this … so, I need to work hard at being at peace with it.

  9. I’ll be trying this recipe! Looks easy enough for a weeknight, thank goodness. And I so feel you on the frustration. We’ve had our share of untouched dinner plates. It’s aggravating, especially when I’ve put thought, time, money and love into the thing. After a full day at work. Ugh.

  10. @Adrienne, I love the idea of one-bite-per-year. We don’t force Harry to try things–we learned the hard way that he’ll drag out one tiny bite for a good twenty minutes, stuffing it into his cheek & whimpering the whole time. He’s never once admitted to liking anything we’ve insisted he try. Stubborn little devil, my kid.

    @Lisa, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone, isn’t it? I’ve spoken to an expert about this (for a story I’m working on) and it’s apparently fairly common among food-centric people, to have kids who won’t eat.

    @WordyDoodles, the full day at work thing, UGH is right. I so don’t need this after that.

  11. I made this last night, with purple potatoes from my growers market and skinless, boneless thighs instead of breasts. It was delicious and easy. I was able to throw it together while watching my 17 month old son, and he enjoyed eating it too. Recipes like this are great for me because I was a vegetarian until a few years ago and so know few easy ways to prepare meat.

    1. I’m so happy to hear this, Christina! Thanks for sharing it here.

    1. Sure, Samantha. Try chicken broth or white grape juice (that might be a bit too sweet–use a tablespoon less).

  12. Love it! I found myself at the grocery store last night without a shopping list or a plan. I opened your blog on my phone and knew this was the recipe I needed because I had a drawer full of potatoes and carrots at home and thyme in the garden. I threw in some onion and used rainbow carrots and an extra orange pepper. It took a little longer to cook but i’m sure that’s because I overstuffed the pan. It was pretty and delicious! This was one of the best meals I’ve made all summer. I decided long ago to try my hardest to not care, or at least pretend really hard not to care, what my 3 year old won’t eat. However, he ate some of the chicken and carrots. Simple, bright, and healthy. Thank you!

    1. I love hearing stories like this, McStreamy! It’s exactly why I write this blog. THANK YOU for sharing.

  13. Hey my favourite American chef,

    I’m making this tonight – praying Mr 17 month old approves. I’ll let you know!

    Much love,

    Your favourite Australian reader 🙂

  14. Hi Debbie
    I linked to your blog from your piece in the NY Times about picky eating (left a few comments). In my experience, kids like easily identifiable food (me too!). How about roasting a whole chicken, or chicken leg portions, and serving with rice/pasta/potatoes and some steamed greens? My kids used to fight over the legs and wings. Also, quality control is easier if you can see the whole bird, and you get to make soup or stock with the carcass.

    1. Hi MZ! Harry loves roast chicken, you’re right–that’s why he suggested I roast these skinless, boneless breasts. But he doesn’t like actual pieces of chicken, only the pristine white breast, cut off the bone. I roast a whole chicken every so often (there are posts/recipes on the site) and make soup with the carcass, just like you said, but since we’re a mostly white-meat family it’s not the best option for us. Every picky eater is different, I guess.

      1. Oops, posted a fairly long reply to you, but it seems to have disappeared!

  15. Debbie, I commented on the advice you were given by your child nutritionist, the gist of which was this:
    1. She may have a point about parents being too ambitious in what they feed their kids.
    From experience , kids tend to like simple, plain meals. My own kids did not like:
    Stews and casseroles (meat, veg, sauce mixed together)
    Unidentifiable meat products (pâté, dim sum dumplings, chicken/fish ‘cutlets’)
    Cheesy, creamy sauces (macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese).
    Those are not my favourite foods either. For a long time, we ate very simply (roast/grilled meat or fish, a starch, veg on the side), which sounds boring, but there is actually lots of scope. I think that the predictability gave them a sense of security, so that they never felt they had to psych themselves up for a battle of wills at mealtimes. We introduced them to more ‘exotic’ items (razor clams, squid in ink, sashimi) in restaurants, where those items were a treat, and they could have small tastes, or on holiday, when there is just less pressure around mealtimes. Today, all 3 of them eat most foods, but their favourites are still the comfort foods of childhood such as roast chicken or a juicy steak.
    2. I disagree with Ms Satter about never putting pressure on children to eat their food. When they meet realistic expectations (eating an appropriately sized portion of food that has been prepared with care and attention to nutrition and deliciousness), children gain self esteem and the confidence to go on to try new things. This does not mean that the child must be singled out, or made the centre of attention at mealtimes. Eating with friends and extended family is an opportunity for children to see expectations and etiquette in practice, it needn’t be draconian. Participating in the mealtime ‘ritual’ gives children a sense of security and belonging.
    I hope this does not sound smug as that is not my intention. I do believe that picky eaters are born (having had 2 myself), but there are strategies to get them to enjoy mealtimes. I wish you all the best, MZ

  16. I didn’t read through all of the comments so maybe I missed this: did you ask your son what it was about it that he didn’t like? Sometimes–I know–they can’t articulate it, but sometimes they can… Anyway, many of us moms truly empathize with you. And I’m grateful to read of someone else’s picky eaters and anticlimactic lovely meals. And I’m going to try this recipe the next time I’m thinking about chicken for dinner. It’s lovely and so simple and looks so delicious!

    1. It was the “contamination” of cooking the chicken with the other ingredients, Robin! I made this again last night and again, no dice. But this time I didn’t get upset about it–my husband and I enjoyed every bite.

  17. I feel for all of you with picky kids. I found the answer for our family back when my kids were early toddlers. Firstly, make sure you are giving them kid-sized portions. Then, if they don’t eat it and are still hungry or hungry before the next meal, save their leftovers, reheat them and that is all they get until it’s eaten. My daughter ate a lot of cold oatmeal for a while, but both daughters were really good eaters by the time they were teens.

  18. By the way, we’re going to try this tonight. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a very busy day.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu