The dinner dance by Molly England & Braised chicken thighs with olives, lemon, potatoes and garlic by Claire Handleman

Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman

When it comes to cooking for my kids, I fail miserably. Despite the fact that feeding my children occurs at least five times a day, I have yet to figure out how to enjoy this relentless task. I’ve bought cookbooks, read blogs, pinned recipes, downloaded printables, to no avail. The harsh truth remains, I can’t cook, don’t want to and don’t like it. Unfortunately, food is required for survival.


Choosing to breastfeed my babies was, of course, preferable. Breastmilk is nutrient-rich, filled with antibodies, even IQ improving, but one of my main motivations was its lack of preparation and mess. Once my kids started solids, I prided myself on continuing to offer them the best. Second to the breast, I opted for organic produce and fresh ingredients.  Although slightly messier than breastfeeding, steaming and pureéing involved no culinary skills, thus, I mastered it.


Then, it happened, my kids grew up. Now it’s my job to ensure that they eat well-balanced, healthy food – every time they’re hungry. This tall order leaves me feeling small in my role as their provider. At playgroups, mom conversations inevitably turn to feeding our young. Evading this topic, I cunningly change the subject to picky eaters, a more socially acceptable excuse to not cook elaborate family meals. Generally, I rely on baked kale chips, salmon, organic macaroni and cheese, eggs and quesadillas, a gamut of minimal preparation, minimal effort, and minimal mess meals.


Providing nutrients for my children is imperative and intrinsic to my role as their mother. Seizing 2016 and indulging in new aspirations and hopes for the coming year, I’ve teamed up with renowned chef Claire Handleman. Claire happens to be my former college roommate and has earned a name for herself amongst foodies. She worked as Assistant Culinary Producer at ABC’s “The Chew” and won Food Network’s acclaimed show “Chopped.” A fellow blogger, she documents her food journeys on Passport to Eat.


With Claire’s culinary expertise and my desire to refine my family meals, we bring you, The Dinner Dance: A blog post series featuring simple recipes with fresh ingredients, one meal at a time. We’ll also offer tips in the kitchen, explore how to’s on cooking food staples, and suggestions for better food storage . Unable to avoid cooking, I’m left with one option, learning to love it. Claire loves food and the process of creating exquisite meals. I’m inspired by her passion. With motherhood comes many challenges and cooking doesn’t have to be one of them. The common roadblocks I face range from food shopping to deciding what to cook, to decrypting complex recipes. I could go on. Together Claire and I will confront these challenges. Our simple recipes cater to everyday moms striving to nurture their families.


I know I’m not alone in my cooking challenges, so please join us on this exciting journey. We look forward to hearing your thoughts along the way! There’s power in accountability – please take photos of your meals and share them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, be sure to hashtag #thedinnerdance. We’d love to hear what works, what you’d love to learn and more! Also stay tuned for our cooking tip of the week.


The Recipes

Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, Potatoes and Garlic

Serves 4 – 6

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cooking Time 1 hour


6 bone in, skin on organic chicken thighs

2 small spanish onions, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick

10 cloves garlic, peeled

1 lemon, cut in half, seeds removed, sliced very thinly

1 lb. baby yellow waxy potatoes, cut in half

½ cup cerignola olives (or green olives of your choosing), pitted (or warn eaters of pits)

2-3 cups chicken stock

1 bunch parsley

kosher salt and black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (use convection roast if you have the option).


Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Season in either the butcher paper or styrofoam container you bought them in. It saves time from cleaning up a cutting board!

Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman

Place a large cast-iron pan, saute pan with high sides, or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the seasoned chicken pieces skin side down. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the skin is a deep golden brown. If the pan starts to smoke while you’re cooking the thighs, adjust the heat to a lower temperature.

Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman


While the thighs are browning off, cut your onions and lemon and peel your garlic (unless you have peeled garlic on hand!). By the time you’re done slicing, the chicken should be golden. Remove the thighs from the pan and add the onions, garlic and lemon. Season with salt and pepper and let brown for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Once there is some color on the onions, add the potatoes. Season generously again. Potatoes absorb a lot of salt, so be more liberal than you would imagine. Add the chicken pieces back to the pan and nestle them amongst their potato and onion friends. Strew the olives around the chicken and then add enough chicken stock to come halfway up the chicken thighs (not covering the chicken skin). Bring the stock up to a boil and then put the pan carefully on the middle rack in the oven.


Cook for 40-50 minutes. The chicken can stay warm in a turned off oven if you’re waiting for guests, wrangling the children out of the bathtub, or need to get back to that last chapter in your book before dinner is served.

Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman


Once out of the oven, check seasoning and adjust if necessary. If you wanted to check with a thermometer, the chicken should be 160 degrees F. I like to reduce the sauce for a thicker sauce, so the pan can be placed back on the stove top and simmered for about 5 minutes until it’s thick. Chop fresh parsley and sprinkle over the top, for that Ina Garten appeal.

Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman
Photograph and Food by Claire Handleman


Roasted Cabbage

Serves 6


1 head Savoy cabbage (or green cabbage)

¾ cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (or any vinegar you have on hand)

kosher salt and black pepper


Remove any wilty leaves from the outside of the cabbage head. Trim the stem and then cut straight through it, halving the cabbage. Preserve the stem because it’s what will hold the cabbage together as it cooks.


Cut the head into 8 even wedges and set two aside (for a salad or slaw for a later use). Salt and pepper both sides of the 6 remaining pieces.


Place a saute pan over medium high heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the pieces carefully to the oil. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. If the pan is dry, add another tablespoon of oil.


After 3-4 minutes of cooking, add the chicken stock, pouring directly over cabbages. Pour the vinegar on the wedges next. Cover and cook at a simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces the thickest part of the cabbage wedges.

Claire Handleman has been a chef in New York for 10 years, working at some of the city’s best restaurants. She previously worked on ABC’s Emmy-award winning show The Chew as an assistant producer and participated in Food Network’s Chopped competition…and won.
Claire has been traveling the world for the past dozen years but focuses a majority of her time in South-East Asia. She has come to regard Thailand as a second home and spends many months each year learning Thai cuisine.
She is currently working on a book with the hopes of sharing the incredible cuisine her Thai friends have shared with her.
While she travels and works, she shares stories, recipes and travel tips on her blog Passport to Eat.

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