Academy Awards Party Part 1 – Kid Friendly and Spicy Entrees

Academy Awards Party Part 1 – Kid Friendly and Spicy Entrees

This entry is part 38 of 96 in the series Holiday Foods

Santa Fe Carne Adovada

Today’s Recipes: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Homemade Spaghetti O’s, Santa Fe Carne Adovada, and Santa Fe Chile Verde (Green Chile Pork Stew).

Today’s recipes celebrate the concepts of three of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Film. When I heard that “Toy Story 3” and “The Kids Are All Right,” both family films, were nominated two childhood favorites immediately leapt to mind … Spaghetti O’s and Chicken Nuggets. It is hard to find things you know your children will like every time, but these two are a lock. Unfortunately, they are full of preservatives, high sodium levels, and other ingredients we can’t control. But by making them from scratch we finally can offer our children (or ourselves) healthier, homemade versions.

The Spaghetti O’s are about as close to the canned version as you can get with a very plain tomato sauce that children love. If you want a more adult version, or more intense flavor, you can use my Killer Marinara Sauce. The ring-shaped pasta is called Anellini and can be ordered on line if you want to stay true to the original, or you can use any small pasta shapes that are easier to find, like stars or alphabets.

The Chicken Nuggets are really just smaller versions of my favorite fried chicken that I grew up eating. A specialty of my grandmother’s, a cast iron skillet will give you the best, most consistent results every time. Cast iron takes awhile to heat up but will hold the heat better than just about any material, helping to maintain the heat of the oil which minimizes the amount the food absorbs while cooking. If you want a healthier version, you can also bake them. Because I use panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), they will be just as crunchy as those fried.

Once again, catering to children’s palates, these are very simply seasoned. If you like, you can increase the seasonings and add some dried herbs and spicy ingredients to the flour mixture. Thyme and cayenne or chipotle powder would be good choices. You can serve these with any dipping sauces you like. Barbecue sauce is always popular in our house.

To represent “The Fighter,” I thought about foods with “knock you out” heat. My husband and I went on vacation to Santa Fe, New Mexico and fell in love with the region. Amazingly beautiful, it truly lives up to its state motto, The Land of Enchantment. With the red hills and unbelievably blue skies, everywhere you look is full of bright colors. As delightful as downtown Santa Fe is, you should take a drive out into the countryside to experience the wild beauty of the area. No wonder artist Georgia O’Keefe couldn’t stay away!

New Mexico is a fascinating merger of three cultures. A harmonious blending of Anglo, American Indian, and Mexican traditions, it is a unique area. Somehow they all figured out a way to live together, a lesson many other countries could certainly learn from. You see aspects of each culture everywhere you look. From the Indian jewelry and art, to the brightly colored gates and doors common in Mexico and strings of drying red chiles, it is a delightful community.

Chile Verde simmering

One of the first things you learn when you get to New Mexico is that virtually all your meals will be served with chile sauce. There are two versions, red and green. The red sauce is made from dried red chiles while the green sauce is made from fresh green chiles. Both are very spicy, so always ask which is hotter – it varies from restaurant to restaurant. If you want a little of each, sound like a local and ask for “Christmas.”

Two of the most common offerings on menus are Carne Adovada and Chile Verde. The first is made with the area’s famous dried and ground red New Mexican chiles while the second utilizes the famous green chiles. You may have heard of Hatch, New Mexico where they have an annual festival celebrating the chiles that grow there. When you arrive, the entire area smells of the roasting chiles. Pure heaven. If you love them as much as I do, you can order them frozen and make your own authentic sauces. If not, you can buy fresh chiles and roast them yourself in the oven or on the grill. And you can also find powdered green chiles online.

One of the most fun things I did on our trip to Santa Fe was to take a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. I recommend it if you are a foodie – it is a wonderful way to learn about the local ingredients and cooking styles. When you make the dishes yourself you can dial the heat up or down depending on your taste. The flavors are incredible – so bright and intense. I still buy my chile powders, chipotle en adobo, and other ingredients from the school.

So whether you are cooking for kids or want “knock you out” heat, I hope you enjoy these recipes!

Photo courtesy of Oven Love food blog

Homemade Spaghetti-O’s

From the Oven Love blog by Natalie Warner Robins

Yield: about 4 servings


  • 6 cups canned tomato sauce
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 1 to 2 tsp garlic powder, or to your taste – you may want to leave out for the kid’s version
  • 1 lb Anellini (ring-shaped pasta) or any small pasta shape such as alphabets or stars
  • 1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Read the whole recipe on The Heritage Cook