Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tonight, we decided to have dinner together, as we tend to do at least once a week. This time she and her two younger kids came to our house. This is this evening's version of Chaos. Every time I get together with my girlfriends who have kids I never know what to expect from the evening's mood, slant, or brand of mischief. Tonight we had stickers placed everywhere, one still-to-be-found wet wash cloth, a 3- and a 5-year old that make me see just what I'm up for when my 2-year-old Lorelei is older... Oy!! I say all of this in the best and loving of way... Lord Help Me! These are good kids, but them PLUS mine still equals three!! WHEW!!
SO! For dinner, Heidi and I had talked about ordering a pizza, but, since I was hosting, I decided to throw one together to save some money. Knowing that I had some left over Sweet Italian Sausage in the fridge from the Pasta Sauce that I had made last night, I stopped at Trader Joe's and grabbed a pre-made pizza dough in the cooler section, a jar of marinara, and some basil.
When I got home I:
- preheated the oven to 350º,
- browned the 1/4 lb. of Italian sausage I had in the fridge,
- patiently eased the ball of pizza dough into a semi-rectangular shape on an Olive Oil Coated cookie sheet,
- drizzled a bit of olive oil on the dough,
- spread about four Tablespoons of Marinara on top of that,
- (Had Heidi) scatter the browned Italian sausage over it all
- (and) scatter a few pieces of fresh basil
- grated 12 oz (3/4 of a 16 oz. ball) of Mozzerella
- Salt & Pepper on top of all that
- Baked it all for 10-12 minutes at 350º
- Then turn the heat up to 400º for 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
Transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board to cool for a bit until it is ready for cutting. We served it with sauteed zucchini and grated Parmesan cheese, which is always good for both flavor and entertainment value.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Yesterday was the last day of a long week for me and I knew I needed a quick and easy dinner. I picked up a 1/4 pound of Penn Cove mussels and a bottle of wine at the market and headed home.
After shoes and socks were kicked off, I put a stock pot on the stove with a drizzle of olive oil. While that was heating up over a medium flame, I quickly diced up a large shallot, sliced some fennel stalks in the fridge into 2" long pieces, and pulled some chard leaves from their stems. All of that went into the pot with a stir and a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper.
While the veggies were cooking away, I bearded the mussels and gave them a quick rinse. Leaving them pretty wet, I put them over the vegetables and gave the whole thing a stir. Then, with the heat turned up to medium high, I poured in about a quarter of a cup of white wine* and added a tablespoon of butter, stirred and covered for about 7 minutes (or until the mussels were all opened).
The chard was nicely wilted, the fennel stalks braised, and the mussels full of plump juicy flavor. As I lifted the lid of the pot Lorelei asked to come up and take a peek.
"Yum!" she said.
I thought to myself, "Damn right!"
In less than 15 minutes start to finish, dinner was cooked and on the table. Serve it with some baguette or other tasty bread for soaking up the broth and you've got a yummy dinner.
*If you don't want to use wine, you can substitute chicken stock and a good squeeze of lemon.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
This evening I took Lorelei to dinner at Lecosho. They've got a great happy hour menu and the place is pretty kid friendly (the owner has a toddler himself). The pricing was such that I was able to order a good mix of items knowing that we would both have something we would like without spending a ton of money. We had rillettes (aqvavit cured porc belly), spaetzle (potato noodles with brown butter), grilled house-made sausage with lentils and soft boiled egg, manchego cheese with lavender honey and almonds, pancetta-braised beet greens, and baguette.
Let me tell you, the most popular items on that table were the egg (my girl will eat eggs no matter how they come to her), the sausage (always kid friendly), and the greens. At first she didn't want to try the greens, but while she wasn't paying attention I slipped some into her mouth. She chewed it for a second then looked around the table for what it was. I showed her that she had just eaten that which she had just turned her nose up to and she said, "Oh! Yummy. More?"
Truth be told, I know that I am very lucky that Lorelei likes food and that she is a good eater, but I truly believe that if you give your kids choices and present those choices as something yummy and exciting, they will follow your lead. Of course, sometimes, they may not like it, but that will be their decision and you'll both learn something new.
If you're going to introduce something new and you're not sure how it'll go over, be sneaky!! Keep your game face on but plot against them. Here's an example. I had a friend and her two kids over for dinner a few weeks ago. The kids wanted dessert, but I had nothing to offer except fruit. Full disclosure; these kids are children of an adventurous chef, so they're predisposed to having a bit of a broad palate. However, they are still kids and will refuse water if they think it's looking at 'em funny.
Anyhow, back to dessert. I decided to serve them strawberries with creme fraiche. I sliced the berries and put them on one side of a bowl, placed a dollop of creme fraiche on the other side, sprinkled some brown sugar over all of it, then (here's my stroke of evil culinary genius) I stabbed a piece of berry with a cocktail fork (which kids love) and put the sucker smack in the middle of the cream. Now they had little choice but to try the potential offender if they wanted to get to the rest of the dish. I served all three of those kids two helpings of that dessert and plates were licked! Ha Ha!! Success!!
I guess the moral of this story is; sneak food into your kids diet and they'll like it... or not.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
As Lorelei and I pulled up to our house this evening, I heard her cry from the back seat, "Tacos!!!"
"Do you want tacos?" I asked.
"Yeah! Tacos. Peees Mama!!"
I am certain that the skid marks my tires made on the driveway as I changes our trajectory will be there for years to come. I don't have a lot of money, but at six o'clock this evening I had even less energy to 'create' dinner with what I had in my fridge. The name of tonight's dish would be 'Taco del Mar'.
When Heidi and the kids showed up they all dropped their coats and looked around for something to do as usual, expecting that dinner would be a long time coming. I called their collective attention tout de suite and announced that, "I'm not cooking tonight. I bought tacos and dinner's served now!" You never saw such a rush to the dinner table, at least I haven't yet in my home. It was great; plastic plates, tin foil and soggy tortillas flew as if Cookie Monster had descended on a pizza-sized cookie.
"Ahmm! Ahmm! Ahmm!!"
As the kiddos settles into their meals, Heidi and I nipped into a some gin and tonics. I feel the need to share that I, a terminal agnostic and definite non-catholic, have given up wine for Lent. It's a strange thing to do, I know, but I have many reasons for this decision. Let's suffice to say that I have a lot to be thankful for and I figured it was the least I could do. The unexpected side effect, however, is how it would affect my friends. See, I'm a tried and true wine drinker. Always have been, always will be. Love the stuff. But for lent, I'm allowing myself beer (which I hate) and liquor (which I can take or leave).
That being said... after the week-long fever, missing work because of it, a traumatizing hospital visit, and no one at home to help me with the logistics, to comfort me or help me comfort Lorelei, do the damned dishes, take out the garbage, throw in a load of wash, clean the cat box, blah, Blah, BLAH!!! Mama needed a drink.
Tacos in tummies and plastic cups 'o G&T's in (mamas') hands, we walked to the park on this lovely spring evening, visited a neighbor and her kids, then watched Kung Fu Panda until all of our eyes slumped to half mast. I topped off the night with a great find from Trader Joe's; English Toffee (Yummee!), then we called it a night.
Give yourself a break from time to time. We, as parents, work so hard at making sure that our kids are awesome people. Just remember that they can't be that if we're not. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of them.
Monday, March 21, 2011
The first mom to ask a question had concerns about her 20-month old daughter taking to only wanting bread and potatoes and nothing else. The teachers and other parents said it was normal and that it would pass. Then another mom piped in agreeing with the others then continued to say that her boy (2 years old) had eaten the same dinner for for the last year.
I think the sound of my jaw hitting the table made the room quiet (either that or my gasp of disbelief had sucked all of the oxygen out of the room), because the entire table of parents turned to me at once. I couldn't help myself but blurt out, "You have GOT to be kidding?! You mean to say that you cook two dinners every night? One for him and another for the rest of the family?" She shrugged her shoulder and said with a defeated smirk, "Yep" as if there was nothing she could so about it.
I took a deep breath, turned to the mother-of-a-bread-eater and said, "It's never too early to say to your child 'This is dinner'." Shock rippled through the crowd of twenty or so parents, but the teachers nodded their heads and openly said, "She's right." I went on to say that kids will not starve if they don't eat dinner one night. Yeah they may be hungry later that evening and yeah you may have a long night, but chances are that they'll remember the harsh lesson.
Remember, this is the age when kids are flexing their independence and testing their boundaries. The act of not eating dinner can be an act of defiance for defiance's sake; they're not doing it because you told them to. If you let them win this battle (like the mom-of-one-dish did) you are setting yourself up for major struggles when it comes to really important things later on down the line. You are the boss. You are the parent. Even if you don't think so, your kids have to learn that you know what's best. Following your lead is one way that your kids will learn to trust you. They may do it reluctantly, but they'll do it and learn from it. Tell them that you love them, give 'em hugs and kisses, but, "this is the way it is."
(In the same swipe, I'm not a believer in making a kid sit in front of a lone broccoli florete until he eats it. When dinner is over for the family, he should clear the table and clean up like usual, but there should be another consequence, something that is immediate and appropriate for the offense; in my house it's no SpongeBob after dinner).
All in all, when it comes to cooking for your kids, yes, of course cook to their tastes... to a point. Introduce something new at least once a week, whether it's a new vegetable, a new protein, a new bread or condiment. In the end, you will both benefit and (hopefully) you will guide your kiddo into being willing to try new things on their dinner plate. And, if their minds are open to new foods, perhaps they'll be open to new ideas, people, art, you name it. That's pretty cool in my book.
My latest success is so simple and yummy that we usually have two servings each.
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, you name it)
Lowfat plain yogurt.
A drizzle of honey.
Serve this one of two ways:
1. Berries in the bowl with the yogurt and honey over the top.
2. Berries in one bowl and dip into the yogurt and honey.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 4-6 sides, 2-4 mains
- 1/4 Fennel Bulb
- 1/4 Red Onion
- 1/2 Cucumber, seeded
- 1/4 Crisp Pear, Bosque are best
- 1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
- 2 tbsp Basil
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 tsp Pear vinaigre
- 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Small Shallot
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
- In a medium bowl, add the vinaigre, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix until blended. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil to make the vinaigrette. Don't worry if it's perfectly thickened, it'll all taste good.
- Dice all if the other ingredients into 1/4" (or so ) pieces. Throw them in the bowl with the dressing. Toss and serve.
The Second is Salade aux Lentilles or Lentil Salad
- 3 tsp Balsamic Vinaigre
- 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 pinch Sugar (optional)
- 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 Fennel Bulb
- 1/4 Red Onion
- 1 small Shallot
- 1/4 Tart Apple
- 1/2 lb. Cooked Lentils
- In a large bowl combine the vinaigre, mustard, salt & pepper and sugar (The sugar takes the tang out of the vinaigre. If you like the tang, omit the sugar) until well blended. Then, slowly whisk in the olive oil to make your vinaigrette.
- Chop the fennel, onion and apple into 1/4" pieces and dice the shallot. Add the veggies and the lentils to the bowl with the vinaigrette and combine.
- - Serve as a simple side to dinner.
- - Top with chopped chicken or smoked trout with a poached egg
- - Add to a green salad
When I was living in France I was introduced to prepared foods that were sold in shrink wrapped packages. You could find anything from potatoes (great for a quick gratin), beets, and lentils. It was my professor with whom I cooked a lot who gave me this recipe for lentil salad. The lentils are ready to eat straight out of the bag or can be added to a soup. At first I was a little off-put that the beans on the outside of the package were dark green and those in the center were a liter color, but it's just a bit of oxidation. I found these lentils at Trader Joe's. If you can't find these prepared beans in your store, I'm sure canned beans would work well, or just go the old fashioned way of cooking them yourself.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Broccoli with a drizzle olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. (Oh yeah, don't forget to salt the water when boiling. It makes a huge difference.)
Parmesan cheese is great with broccoli. If you're serving broccoli for dinner, put some Parmesan in a pile on the plate or in a separate bowl for dipping. If sending it to school in your kid's lunch, sprinkle some on for them. Yum!!!
My larder is typically stocked with plenty of food, but some nights... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and cheese, and cuddles is all we do for dinner around here.
From time to time I like to mix up how or where we eat dinner. I like to do picnic dinner in front of one of Lorelei's favorite movies after a really long day. Put a bunch yummy finger foods on a plate, spread out a blanket that can be thrown in the wash, and have at it. It breaks up what may become monotony of eating at the dinner table, and it's an easy, fun way to spend time with your kids.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Now I wasn't sure if Lorelei would eat those greens, but I'll tell you what, not only did she eat what I gave her, she took from my plate, asked for more, had some for breakfast and wanted some to go to daycare with her for lunch. Did she like it? Oh yes she did!
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1/4 Onion
- 2 bunches (or 1 bag) Greens (here I used collards and mustard greens)
- 1 tsp White Wine or White Balsamic Vinaigre
- Salt and Pepper
- 1-3 tbsp Chicken Stock or Water
Over medium high heat, sautee the onion in the olive oil in a large stock pot until translucent. Fill the pot with the coarsely chopped. With a pair of tongs, turn the greens top to bottom a few times to evenly distribute the heat. When the leaves have wilted significantly, add the vinaigre and stir to distribute. At this time, add the chicken stock and cover to cook for 10-15 minutes at Medium Heat.
Serve with a pinch of coarse salt.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1 Roasted Chicken (or at least most of it)
- 1 gallon (plus or minus) Chicken Stock
- 3 Carrots
- 3 Ribs of Celery
- 1/4 Onion
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 cup Sauteed Collard Greens (in this case left overs)
- 1 can Lentils (rinsed)
In a large pot, heat the chicken stock over Medium-High heat. While the liquid is heating up, slice the carrots, and coarsely chop the roasted chicken meat, onion, and celery. Throw them into the pot. Let that cook for about ten minutes until the carrots are nearly cooked. Then put in the lentils and greens. Cover and simmer for 10 - 20 minutes.
Serve with toasted bread and a drizzle of sour cream or creme fraiche.
So, with a two-year old in the bath, I began to run back and forth from the kitchen, where I was madly chopping vegetables and leftover chicken, to the bathroom, where I hoped my kid hadn't either a) drowned having been unattended for 1.5 minutes or b) was drinking the bath water. I'm sorry to say that a lot of bath water was consumed, but thankfully no drowning occurred.
By the end of the bath my soup was ready to be put on the table and all were warm and happy. Whew!!
* Here's how I made the soup so quickly and easily. *
Last night I bought a roasted chicken from the grocery store. As soon as I got home, I cut the breast meat off and fed some to Lorelei for dinner. Then, while the bird was still warm, I pulled the meat off of the carcase and put it in the fridge for later. Before I sat down to the table I put the bones, seasoned skin and all into a pot of water. I let it simmer for a couple of hours and before going to bed placed the hot pot on a potholder in the bottom of the fridge to cool. Voila, seasoned chicken stock.
Tonight, when the child was well distracted with bubbles and bath toys, I started the soup. I turned the stove to Medium-high heat, grabbed a stock pot and poured in some of last night's stock to heat it up. (Ran to check on the baby) I sliced three carrots, 1/4 of an onion, and three ribs of celery, and threw that all into the soup. (Ran to check on the baby) Then I grabbed the rest of last night's pulled chicken and chopped it coarsely. (While doing this I heard a slurping sound come from the bathroom and hollered, "Don't drink the bath water!!!" The slurping stopped.) Put the chicken in the pot. (Run to the bathroom panic-stricken because I heard coughing. "Hi mama!!" Whew. Not dead.) Finally I threw in a can of rinsed lentils, some left over sauteed greens (also from last night's dinner), salt, pepper, and two bay leaves. I covered it up and let it simmer on the stove until we sat down to eat. All in all I think it took about twenty-five minutes to bathe the kid and make dinner. A full recipe will be posted in the next few days.
|Easy chicken soup with a drizzle of creme fraiche.|
About store-bought roasted chicken
I learned to love buying roasted chickens when I lived in Paris for a semester. I had a very tight budget and shared the dormitory kitchen, which wasn't always available to cook in. One day, while talking to the neighborhood butcher and his wife about my situation, the butcher almost forced one of his fresh birds on me. I wasn't too keen on the idea of taking a whole bird. Being a recovered vegetarian and really weirded out about eating meat off of the bone, I just didn't think that it was a good choice for me.
This sweet older couple had their birds spinning in a glass-encased oven-on-wheels on the sidewalk. The aroma that filled the street when the chickens were done was so wonderful that I ultimately couldn't resist. These poulets rôtis became a staple of my French life and remain so to this day.
Where to buy your bird? I buy mine at Ballard Market one of the Seattle-based Town and Country grocery stores. Their birds are free range, grain fed, and $7.99 for a whole bird. As for your other, bigger stores, talk to the deli counter to see where they get their chickens... if you care.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Prep time: 10-40 minutes, depending on your chosen veggies
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 35-40 minutes
Yield: Serves 8-12 people
- 8-10 Eggs
- 2 tsp Olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup (total) Sauteed or roasted vegetables
- 1/4 cup Cheese - the sharper the better: Cheddar, gruyere, swiss, blue
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- Sour cream or creme fraiche for serving
Preheat oven to 425º
One thing to keep in mind about Fritatas, anything is game, keep it to three to four veggie/potato/cheese ingredients and you're set!!
Great Fritata combinations:
- Caramelized sweet onions, oven roasted asparagus and blue cheese
- Oven roasted potatoes, sauteed fennel, ham and gruyere
- Broccoli, red bell pepper, Italian sausage and cheddar
I hope you enjoy!!
From the beginning of my daughters eating experiences, I have made it a policy to taste everything that I give her, including jarred food. I, of course, bought her the organic labels with the good combinations of fruits and veggies, but they all tasted like cardboard, so I decided to pull out my immersion blender and food processor make her food myself. (Stay tuned for later posts on how to easily make baby food.)
I realized from the very beginning that if I gave her something to taste that she would try it. Even if I had to force the subject a bit (and yes by that I do mean shoving food into her mouth), 9.5 times out of 10 she would eat, and like what I had given her. Of course, especially in her first year, I stayed away from really spicy food, potential allergens, or things that may be too hard to chew, but all in all, anything was and is game.
Kids get bored with monotony too!!
Here are some things I've done that have helped expand my daughter's palate and expectations of what breakfast is:
Serve different kinds of bread as toast. One day give 'em multi-grain bread, the next day toasted baguette, and the next biscuits. Of course I don't mean every day, but just switch it up!!
Offer different toppings for their toast: different jams and jellies, butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, Neutella. And when they're old enough, let them do the spreading. This will help them with their fine motor skills, let them feel a sense of ownership with their food and they'll unquestionably try some combinations that you would have never thought of that will increase their palate.
Eggs? Scrambled, hard boiled, fried... serve them all. And for brunch? Fritata
Cereal. Please, oh please!! Stay away from sugar cereals. In my opinion it sets kids up for wanting terribly sugary foods and it's just not good for them. Instead, serve them Annie's Bunny Love toasted oat & corn cereal, or Kashi Honey Toasted Oat cereal. Of course my kid always wants what I'm eating. Even though some of the flakes in my bowl are too big for her mouth, she insist on eating my Kashi 7 Whole Grain Cereal.
When you are introducing a new food, NEVER grimace or pull a yucky face when you give it to your kid, even if it's something that you don't particularly like. Let them make that decision for themselves. They'll tell you if they like it or not, but only believe them until they have truly taken a bite, chewed AND swallowed it. If it's a staple at your dinner table and they say they don't like it, reintroduce it later being sure not to remind them that they didn't like it before. Who knows? Maybe they will this time.
EPT said "Yes" two times!!!
(Want to know the first thing this Food-Minded Mama ate when she found out she was pregnant? Triscuits and Squeeze Cheese; a lot of it. One box to one can.)
That was May 2, 2008. After I found out that I was going to have a baby, I continued to make an earnest effort to get my tours up and running, but The Food-Minded Traveler has become more of a consulting gig than anything. Posting food-, travel-, and Paris-centric ephemera on my Facebook and Twitter pages, and creating itineraries and lists of places to eat and see in Paris. I still have dreams of making my idea a reality, but my focus clearly had to be turned to making ends meet and raising my now nearly 3-year old daughter.
I'm sure it's pretty clear by the name of my blog that I'm a food lover, maybe even a foodie (which is, as best as I can tell, a geek about food). Ok, ok, I'm a TOTAL GEEK about food. I look at 'Food and Wine Magazine' and make noises that are normally heard in the bedroom. I have stacks of food history, gastronomical excursions, 'culture is food' kinds of books and I pore over all of them. I get excited about creating a menu and shopping for ingredients. My hobby before I became a mom was eating out. Now it's cooking for friends and loved ones.
So why have I decided to start The Food-Minded Mama? Well, I have some very strong feelings about how to feed kids, I'm living on an extremely tight budget, and I'm a single working mom who doesn't have (and doesn't want to take) the time to slave over a stove every night. And, it turns out that because of how I have been feeding my kid (or just sheer luck) she'll eat just about anything. She prefers fruit to chocolate, and eats broccoli like popcorn when we watch a movie. Pretty cool, huh?
Here's what I plan to offer through this blog:
- Time-saving and inexpensive recipes
- Mom's tricks on how to get your kid to try new foods
- Philosophies on food and eating
- Funny moments at the table
- Kitchen foibles
- Guilty pleasures
1. I am not a chef. I know how to cook, but I am in no way a chef.
2. I will do my best to write the recipes so that they are fool proof and easy to follow, but please be sure to read everything through before you start as I may inadvertently include an important beginning step at the very end (sorry for that in advance).
3. I am a terrible kitchen manager. I'm learning to use everything that I cook, but I'm not there yet.
4. I hate doing dishes. (Ok, that's more of a confession, but it's true).
I have a lot of fun cooking for my daughter and am continually amazed, surprised and proud of her eating habits. I hope that my readers will get something from this. If you ever have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.