Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Mom Tricks

Now and then, we moms have to be creative. Someday, if our kids are lucky, we'll share these secrets when they have kids of their own. Maybe.
  1. "All the cookies are gone!" (They are hidden because I want them). "I have some whole wheat crackers!"
  2. My signature secret move: Eye the vegetables on your child's plate. Beg for a bite. See how much fun it is for your toddler to deny you. Try to "sneak" the vegetable off your child's plate. Use the "MINE!" instinct to your advantage. Watch child eat vegetables simply because you want them.
  3. "Would you like Mommy to put you in the seat, or do you want to climb up yourself?" Note that no third option of running off to play is mentioned.
  4. It's looking like a no-go on taking a bath from the small fry. "Help Mommy pick out what toy you want to play with in the bathtub! How about measuring cups and spoons?!"
  5. "Which side of the bed did you get up on? Oh, we're going to have to back upstairs and go get up on the other side now. Ready?"
  6. "See, Elmo uses a toothbrush. And he doesn't even have teeth."
  7. "Tickle the Pickle!" shout this, then tickle said grouchy child until you have made her forget what the big deal was.
  8. Serve green fruits like kiwi, honeydew or sliced green grapes, not just green vegetables. Keep them guessing on that whole green food thing. Works for orange, too.
  9. Find a place where running, climbing and discovery is pretty safe. It's nice to be saying "No. No. No no no no no NO!" every fifteen minutes instead of every five. Play too. You need it.
  10. Visit place from #9 often and early in the day, especially if you are having company later.
  11. Didn't eat well? Have dessert for the big people after bed time. They won't miss what they don't know you had.
  12. Shop for the cereal without the kids along. Buy the healthy stuff. Place all prepared food items (cereal, crackers, etc.) into clear storage bins. Food looks like food, not fun characters.
  13. Encourage that Mommy's Helper "Housework is FUN!" stage for as looooong as you can.
Okay, so what's your best trick? We have to stick together, you know ...

Mac and Cheese (and Broccoli)

Had my child been eating solids before she started talking, I am positive her first word would have been "cheese" and not "Mommy." So, no big surprise that she is in love with that all-time classic of kid food, Mac n' cheese — well, at least the non-pureed kind. Her first introduction was dubious at best, and, well, I don't think that stuff in the jar really counts.

In all honesty, I try to avoid making the mac just because I want to expand my little one's palate. Then last weekend I found myself with more green onions and yet another head of broccoli from the CSA bag (and two more in the fridge now, and a head of rapini I just cooked with garlic, white beans and sausage). Around here, we eat our broccoli. And, our green onions, and cheese. It was inevitable that all of them would end up in the same dish with a bit of meat and pasta for an easy one-pot meal.

There are just three of us here, but the rather large casserole dish of this recipe was gone by end of weekend. Gone. The great thing about this is that the cheese sauce is made with low fat milk and vegetable broth instead of cream.

Ham and Broccoli Mac 'n Cheese
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Appearing in Kid-friendly recipe carnival this week.

ABC's of Veggies

Mollyjade left a link in her comment on the "Keeping it Simple" post that led me to a really neat site about a mom who is working her way through the vegetable alphabet with her son. It's a great blog and a great idea.

I find myself trying to "alphabetize" my recipes here to see if I have all the letters covered whether as the main veggie or one of many in the dish!

Let's see ...
A for Asparagus, Arugula and Artichokes
B for Broccoli, Beets and Bok Choy
C is for Chard, Cabbage, and Cauliflower
... D ...
E for Edamame and Eggplant
F for Fennel, Fiddlehead Ferns and Fava Beans (posting recipe this week)
G for Green Beans
H for Hummus (Lima Bean)
... I, J ...
K for Kale
L for Lettuce
... M ...
N for Napa Cabbage
O for Onions
P for Pesto, Potato, Peas, and I have a Pattypan to prepare
... Q...
R for Rhubard
S for Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
T for Turnips and Tomatoes
... U, V, W, X, Y ...
Z for Zucchini

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keeping it Simple

I watch about an hour of TV a week, on average. Virtually all of this time is spent with two cooking shows, Iron Chef and Top Chef. It’s a bit intimidating, and I could skip the over-wrought drama of Top Chef’s elimination sessions, but I love to watch the things these people do with food.

Matsaharu Morimoto’s approach to cooking salmon in every possible texture variation and incorporating this all into a single dish just gets me on some odd level of culinary curiosity. I bow to the skills any chef of this caliber brings, literally, to the table.

It does make me wonder about who the heck I am to be writing recipes. What do I know? At these trying times where the creativity well is running a bit dry, I turn to “the library.”

The library is the combined collection of my husband’s and my cookbooks. It now numbers in the 200’s. Seriously. We have a lot of books in our house and not just on cooking. But cooking is our shared passion and the library reflects this.

Thusly humbled, and with fresh green beans on hand, I reached out for the comfort of my favorite Italian grandmother, Lidia Bastianich and her latest book, Lidia’s Italy. Instead of beating me over the head with a French whisk and a treatise on the perfect technique for the five Mother Sauces, Lidia greeted me with a warm hug of food affirmation from page 297’s Insalata Cruda E Cotta (Cooked and Raw Salad).

Roasted onions. Vinegar and olive oil. Fresh vegetables. Simple. Perfect. Familiar. Baby, I am at home in the kitchen again. In just one recipe of the book, Ms. Bastianich reminded me that good food is only as good as the ingredients. That simple is best even for one of the most recognized cooks in the world. That no technique can make a fresh green bean taste any finer. That Top Chef may make good reality TV, but it’s not the reality of how we really cook and eat.

So thank you, Lidia. And here is what I did to your lovely recipe. I hope you approve. I know we did. The end result was the best salad I have had in a long time. It helps that virtually all of the vegetables were local, in season and just out of the ground. Really. I had to wash the dirt off the onions myself.

Cooked and Raw Salad ala Lidia
Looking for this recipe? It will be included in my upcoming book co-authored with Ali of Cleaner Plate Club!

Serves a small army. Tastes like summer.

A couple notes here. To seed a tomato, just slice it in half first, and gently squeeze out the seeds and tomato “goo,” leaving the flesh, skin and “ribs” of the tomato intact. Also, the purple green beans are a lovely eggplant color. This will turn to dark green when cooked. So, if you look in the pot and wonder, “Hey, where’d the purple beans go?” now you know.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Seven Strange Things About Me

I got tagged by Leisa at Down with the kids. I like how she describes the inspiration for her site:
I wanted to set up a space to celebrate this stuff, not just the problems, like sleep and teething, but the really fun time!
So true. I laugh every day with the Kiddo, even the tough days. Parenting is a joy and worth celebration. Thanks, Leisa and congrats on your third child due soon!

So, on with the weirdness...
  1. I got my first full-time job at 15, at a rest home. The residents included a few schizophrenics, a few mental patients, and mostly those who were just a little odd and a lot old. I find that one toddler is more of a challenge than all of those residents were. They were sedated and they moved a lot slower. They did bite, too, but they had fewer teeth.
  2. I broke my child's Sit-'N-Spin by playing on it. I also enjoy slides and moonwalks.
  3. I had to quit culinary school because I got knocked up (I was married and 37). It was so hot being pregnant and working over the commercial stoves, I kept having to go into the walk-in fridge and take off my chef coat. Someday, I hope to finish.
  4. I used to work as an art director for catalogs. Occasionally, beautiful male models would show me their portfolio, and ask me things like, "Which nude photo of me do you like the best?" I am not sure why I left that job.
  5. I've had few "normal" jobs. I have also worked as a field laborer, photojournalist and a Shark Wrangler (capturing and handling sharks for research).
  6. Under the heading "too strange to be fiction," I have hair on my toes. I forget to shave them often. While on an ecotourism trip in Fiji, Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) bit the hair on my toes. I have photos.
  7. I have nearly 30 hours of flying time toward a pilot's license. The first time I flew, it rained, then there was a puff of smoke and a burning smell as the alternator went out, and small animals on the runway. On my first solo, a deer ran in front of the plane as I landed. Shortly after that, I got cut off mid-sky while trying to land, then the radio went out. I really liked flying, but I couldn't afford it, and I got the feeling maybe I was just not supposed to be up there.
Well, that's seven. There's probably hundreds more. Enough that I have given serious consideration to the following epitaph on my headstone:
"What a long strange trip it's been." — Grateful Dead.
Followed in small type by: "Okay, what's next?"
Now, time for tags.

Frugal Mom, you're it. I know you have some interesting things to say!

Katie from Ice Cream is not for Breakfast, let's hear your seven!

Ah, and Ken, you introvert. This tag is payback for the Scrabble Bingo incident. Let's hear 'em!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Things I never thought I would say

Then I became a parent.
  1. Are you eating rocks?!!
  2. Please don't poop in the bathtub.
  3. Goat food is for goats, not us.
  4. That? That's Mommy's fat roll.
  5. That's right! Bird poop is nasty and we don't touch it.
  6. Hello? Poison Control? Okay, please don't laugh ...
  7. You know, I actually like peas now.
  8. Can Mommy have her ice cream cone back? Please? Please?
  9. Honey, the cat doesn't need a binky.
  10. Okay, princesses or race cars today? Race cars? Good.
  11. Hmmm, the pureed prunes aren't bad. But the green bean mush tastes like dirt.
  12. What did you eat?! Was that a crayon? Okay, now where's the marble?
  13. Why are you washing your hands in the toilet?!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Ah, long ago, before high-fructose corn syrup.

Kids' Menu Report

As a follow up to the post on kids' menus, this link from CSPI has some great information which reveals that chain sit-down restaurant "kid menu" items are often not any better for your child (or are worse) than fast food.

Be sure to download the Kids' Restaurant Guide pdf file. As I mentioned before when discussing the whole kids' menu vs. real menu issue, quite often the best thing you can order for your child at any restaurant is a second plate and a healthy regular menu item to share. Given the portion sizes at most restaurants, no one will go hungry.

If you want to take the "vote with your fork" approach one further, take the family to a locally-owned restaurant that serves local foods and has healthy menu items. Be sure to thank them for their efforts.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hostess with the Mostest (Vegetables)

For better or worse, I think we overwhelmed our company this weekend with veggie dishes. Here is the menu, make your own call:
  1. Herb-crusted pork tenderloin
  2. Steamed broccoli with roasted tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan
  3. Honey-spice roasted cauliflower
  4. Roasted green beans
  5. Roasted asparagus
  6. Arugula salad with cranberries, aged gouda and savory pecan praline (Sara Moulton)
  7. Chard tart with Grana Padano and Goat Cheese
  8. Country french bread (no, don't make my own)
  9. Fresh mixed berries with mint
For those of you counting at home, we forced SIX veggie dishes on the unsuspecting guests. Partly, we just do all of our cooking for the week over the weekend. Partly, we just have a lot of veggies with this whole eat local thing this time of year.

The next day, we had company again. Even the main dish had veggies. We keep getting bok choy and napa cabbage in our CSA bag, and I get tired of the couple recipes I have for these items, so I created something for a main dish that would use the cabbages in a new way.

Ginger-Pork with Bok Choy and Napa Cabbage

Asian "Slaw"
Looking for these recipes? They will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Speaking of the hosts and hostesses with the mostest. I have a few hosts to thank for the carnivals this week:

Once again, I am lucky enough to be among the top 20 submissions for's Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog Carnival.

Veggie Chic is hosting her first canival on site with all-veggie recipes.

The So-Called Me hosts this week's humor and tips and parent saga known as the Carnival of Family Life.

Ramblings of Silver Blue hosts this week's Carnival of the Recipes: Wild Card Edition where anything goes in the kitchen.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Guess Who's Serving Dinner

Ah, busy weekend ahead. Company for dinner again. No, I will not be making my own tortillas. I especially won't be grinding my own corn. So, along with the caveat that elitist foodies should avoid my table, comes a few simple guidelines (WARNING! Danger Will Robinson) on comin' to dinner:
  1. You will likely be greeted at the door by a barefoot, disheveled heathen covered in food. It's okay, I'm friendly. My child is the shorter one jumping up and down next to me.
  2. You may not have the right forks, or any forks in any order you would expect. No worries, we often eat with our hands.
  3. Napkins will be either paper or really wrinkled and used looking cloth. Both versions are clean. But if you think I have time to iron napkins, well, just look at how I am dressed (see point one).
  4. We eat vegetables. A lot of vegetables. You don't have to eat your share, and I won't give you a time out and no dessert. But you might have a fairly empty plate.
  5. We also drink wine. This includes my child who will stick a food-covered finger in your glass the second you are not looking to taste your goods. I did not teach her this. I did not encourage it. I think it is genetic.
  6. Speaking of food and glasses, whoever sits on the other side of my child gets two water glasses. One to actually drink out of, and the other in case my child decides to share. The backwash is pretty ugly.
  7. Almost before the food has been consumed, all the little people at the table jump up and run off to play. I am usually with them. Even though I know your wit and conversation are sparkling, chances are I am having more fun.
  8. I don't believe in a "children's table." If we go anywhere that has one, I eat at that table with my child. Especially in this case, I am probably having more fun.
  9. Seconds on desserts are allowed and encouraged. My husband will eat the last brownie, so move fast.
  10. I love nice table manners. If you use them, I will watch in fascination. It's been a while since I've seen this.
  11. I did mention we serve lots of vegetables, right?
  12. No soda allowed at the dinner table. Sorry. You also won't find it in our fridge, so we're not being rude by not offering it. We have some great milk.
  13. If you want a sippy cup instead of a wine glass, that's okay. I have dibs on the one with sharks on it.

Following in your footsteps, literally

Building a commitment to phsyical activity in your children.

In light of the current childhood obesity epidemic, it’s good to know that your active lifestyle provides a positive influence on your kids’ attitudes toward fitness. In fact, until recently, this kind of role modeling was thought to be the greatest influence on kids’ activity levels. Research published by R.J. Brustad in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport showed that your role modeling may not be as important as your beliefs, encouragement and support of your child’s activity.

Beliefs Make a Difference
In a study done by SpencerHall in 2003, mothers of children whose activity levels ranged from low to high were interviewed in order to better understand the relationship between the mothers’ attitudes toward physical activity and the activity level of their children.
“They may actually spend more time on [television and computer] than I think. Sometimes, I am so busy doing other things, that I’m just glad they’re safe in the house and quiet,” said one mom in the low activity group.
In contrast, a mom in the high activity level group had the opposite approach:
“We do not allow any TV during the week. We just don’t. It’s not a fight, or a discussion, it just doesn’t come on until some specific shows on the weekend.”
Mothers with children who had a low activity level:
  • Did not consider their children’s activity a priority
  • Were more focused on just surviving a busy day than on long-term lifestyle impacts
  • Were often glad not to have the extra “burden” of driving children to organized sports
  • Family time was centered on “relaxation and rest.” Children were given free choice in how to relax, and most often opted for television or computer time
  • Often expected lower levels of activity from daughters rather than sons
  • Expressed fear of alienating their children by pushing them to be more active
Mothers with children who had a high activity level:
  • Tended to be active themselves
  • Felt that sports and activity were important for a child’s development
  • Enjoyed being involved in facilitating their children’s activity
  • Have more limits on time spent watching television or being on the computer
Four Ways to Encourage and Support Activity

Encouragement may be as simple as turning off the TV and saying, “Go play!” to indirect efforts to encourage interest in a new sport. One of the most powerful motivators is simply a vote of confidence from you. Children look to their parents to provide important feedback on their physical abilities.

Talk is good, but action speaks just as loudly to your child. By organizing family bike rides, coaching a team or just playing a game of catch, you are making it clear how much you value activity.

Increasing concerns about safety have changed the focus of our kids’ activities from a neighborhood game in an unsupervised park to an organized team environment. This requires parental action to find the opportunities, and to provide support and transportation. Becoming a “soccer mom” can be pretty demanding, but resourceful parents can often find a way to fit in activity of their own while a child is at practice or a lesson.

Role Modeling
Once thought to be the main influence on a child’s activity level, role modeling is important in that it shows your child that you value physical fitness and fit it into your busy life. However, your training run doesn’t burn any of her calories! Use your love of sports as a way to encourage your child’s interest. Better yet, take her along for the run.

Thanks CCFC and CSPI

The New York Times featured a story on Kellogg's voluntary cut back on food marketing to kids under 12. What the lead in to the story does not say, but mentions deeper is that the "voluntary" action was in response to a pending lawsuit by two parents, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Under the new voluntary restrictions, Kellogg will stop marketing foods through radio, print, TV and third-party websites to kids under 12 that do not meet the following nutritional standards per serving:
• No more than 200 calories;
• No trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat;
• No more than 230 milligrams of sodium (except for Eggo frozen waffles);
• No more than 12 grams of sugar (excluding sugar from fruit, dairy, and vegetables).

In addition, Kellogg will not:
• Advertise to children under 12 in schools and preschools.
• Sponsor product placements for any products in any medium primarily directed at kids
under 12;
• Use licensed characters on mass-media advertising directed primarily to kids under 12, as a basis for a food form, or on the front labels of food packages unless those foods meet the nutrition standards;
• Use branded toys in connection with foods that do not meet the nutrition standards.

The pending suit also included the Viacom network (Nickelodean and Nick Jr.). Viacom has not responded to the suit. A decision is still being made whether or not to proceed with action against the network. Viacom's Nickelodean has a history of violating the maximum number of ads per hour of programming. In 2004, the network violated this rule 591 times.

Many thanks and congrats to CSPI and CCFC for their tenacity and hard work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Frittering Away Some Time

A friend was asking about good vegetable recipes for kids. She joked, "If I could just put the vegetables in pancakes!"

I had to think a moment. Then, I remembered that you CAN. I sent her the link to sweet potato pancakes and pumpkin waffles for starters. It wasn't until later that I realized just how many things you can do with a pancake batter — even vegetables. So I took a look in the bag of produce from our CSA this week, and took a shot at a vegetable pancake that could be a fun side dish for kids and big people, too.

I found a summer squash left from the week's produce. It’s a challenge to cook not just because it has little flavor, but it can also be soggy. I had some quiet time to play in the kitchen after we wore out the kiddo at the park. I was ready to take on the squash.

The summer before I turned 16, I started work in a rest home a few nights each week and most of the weekends. The weekend staff, all two of us, also got to cook since the regular cook was off. This being a rural area, any vegetable is generally mashed, boiled or fried. Sometimes all three. It’s old school farm food. So, along with how to roast cheaper meat and make gravy, and make yeast rolls from scratch, I learned how to make zucchini fritters. Fried. I liked them, but nothing feels quite like a rock in your stomach more than oil-soaked squash. The spongy texture just drinks up the frying oil.

There had to be a better way. Sure, it took me the last 25 years to get around to it, but here it is. The following is a lighter, more flavorful approach to this old school standard. No frying allowed. This is a great one for summer since it uses a lot of the staple veggies from the farmers market or the family garden.

Summer Squash and Vegetable Fritters
Honey-Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Looking for these recipes? They will be included in my upcoming book co-authored with Ali of Cleaner Plate Club!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Culinary Anxiety?

I couldn't resist a headline in the Times today about "Dinner at the Foodies." The article discusses how great the pressure is on a dinner party host in certain NY foodie circles. One couple was mortified that they made everything home made except the tortillas. Here's a quote from the article:
“Entertaining and cooking have become an integral part of how certain people demonstrate their cultural cachet,” said Joshua Schreier, a history professor at Vassar College who lives in Harlem and says he is a victim, and a propagator, of culinary anxiety. “There is a specific cachet that only a fiddlehead fern can convey. Saying, ‘I got this olive oil from this specific region in Greece,’ is like talking about what kind of car you have. And people don’t want to be associated with the wrong kind of olive oil. It becomes less about having people over and more about showing off your foodie credentials.”
Culinary anxiety? Remind me not to invite ANY of these people over to my house for a meal. Frankly, if you are going to judgmental about the origin of the cheese I serve, well, you can go pay $200.00 for an equivalent meal at a restaurant and make the staff there miserable. At least they are getting tipped.

Worse, many of these folks, according to the article, have incorporated the "eat local" trend into this elitism. The last thing "eat local" needs to be is an exclusive club. There is nothing so basic and so fundamental as one's right and access to foods grown near home. Making this into an exclusive club can only harm the integrity of eating local. My opinion.

As far as a carbon footprint goes, using the tortilla example, these could easily be purchased from a local company that uses local ingredients, which makes far less environmental impact that say, you buying generic flour from the store and firing up the stove and tortilla press. I know for a fact that there is a Hispanic foods company down the road that makes far better tortillas than I ever will. Buying local is also a way to be green AND not make you a slave to your dinner guests.

When you come over to "The Kitchen" for a meal, we're just not uppity. And we don't wait on you, either. Grab a glass of wine, I will show you where everything is in the kitchen and you can even help. We eat family style. Kick off your shoes and just be comfortable. If the exact fork is not on the table, well, use the one you have. The food is good, the wine is good, the company is good. That's all that matters.

Speaking of being a good host, and a good guest, I have a few thank you notes to send to those who have hosted links to my content in various carnivals.

Cindy at Wisdom of Healing is hosting this week's Carnival of the Healthy and Fit Family. Thirty posts were submitted, and the Nutrition Series here made the cut. Many thanks to Cindy.

Arvind Devalia is hosting a vegetarian Carnival of the Recipes this week at his site, Thoughts and Words.

The Carnival of Family Life is hosted this week at Down with the Kids.

Carnival of Green is hosted this week by Victoria E. The carnival covers all topics on "being green."

And, my take on the anti-diet-diet is featured here at

Many thanks to these fine hosts!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Honey, Honey

One of my favorite local ingredients to cook with is honey. It has great versatility for everything from salad dressing to ice cream, vegetable dishes to just plain on bread. Unlike most sweeteners, honey contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Honey is known to have antimicrobial properties and some people believe that consumption of local honey can help with allergies.

Along with its good properties, honey can also contain dormant botulism bacteria endospores, which can be hazardous if fed to an infant. The endospores can become active in an infant’s immature intestinal tract and lead to illness. For this reason, honey should not be fed to infants.

It also has addictive qualities, I believe, judging from my little one’s response to it. And my own. But this love is tinged bittersweet these days, with worry about the bees. Colony Collapse Disorder has claimed nearly 25 percent of the nation’s bee population. At this point, the cause is still much of a mystery, although two of the most likely theories involve a pesticide ingredient called imidicloprid and the pollen from genetically modified (GM) plant species. The pesticide has been shown in some studies to cause a disorienting behavior in bees.

The GM theory is a bit more complicated. Basically, the ingestion of the bees of the GM pollens may lead to a weakened immune system, leaving the bee susceptible to parasites that would normally not be a problem — the bees are malnourished. At least one university study has shown that bee populations do not thrive as well in GM crop environments.

Colony Collapse Disorder is definitely an issue worth watching. Even if you don’t like honey. Bees are responsible for the pollination of over 90 U.S. fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, peaches and other tree fruits like citrus, berries, soybeans, sunflowers, cucumbers and melons, legumes, canola, cotton, grapes, squash, peppers and tomatoes. Worldwide bees help pollinate over 300 different fruit and vegetable plants. Thus, the loss of bees would be a great loss for us all. Here’s to the hope that researchers find the answer before it is too late.

A Spoonful of Honey Makes the Vegetables Go Down

Okay, so I don’t need honey to eat my vegetables, but it sure does make some of them taste great, even cauliflower. Cauliflower is not a personal favorite, but prepared this way, I’d eat it once a week. The salads below? I would eat these two recipes every day. Too bad fresh figs are only around for a limited time.

Honey-Spice Roasted Cauliflower
Looking for these recipes? They will be included in my upcoming book co-authored with Ali of Cleaner Plate Club!

Arugula Salad with Bleu Cheese Crostini, Roasted Pears and Grapes and Honey-Wine Syrup

Balsamic-Honey Roasted Fig Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula