Vote for My Friend on Martha Stewart

My friend Yolie has created this pretty nifty cookie cutter/tray, One Smart Cookie.  It produces evenly-thick cookies in one fell swoop, which in turn produces evenly-baked cookies.  She’s a finalist on Martha Stewart’s American Made competition.  

Vote here: http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/95232/design/one-smart-cookie

Nut/Peanut-Free Snack Suggestions

Some have started already, my kids go back to school in about 10 days.  With it comes packing snacks and lunches.  Because of dangerous allergic reactions to nuts and peanuts, snacks in most classrooms must be nut/peanut-free. My son’s elementary school nurse sends nut-free snack suggestions, but I find them less than ideal healthwise. I’ve updated (slightly) my Nut-free Snack List for those who need suggestions on what to pack for healthful snacks.  Caution that some legumes (lentils, chickpeas, soybeans) can cause allergic reaction in some that are peanut allergic.  This list is not free of those. 

Find the list here>>>Nut Free Snacks

Favorite New Snack!

Favorite Snack!

I will also be going into the elementary school, with a few other volunteer parents, to help kids choose healthful foods at lunch– meaning grabbing as many fruits and vegetables as they’d like, and maybe even suggesting a few to try.   I find the first graders are often nervous about getting lunch from the cafeteria in the  first few weeks.  I try to make it smoother and less nerve-wracking for them, letting them they know what “comes with” their lunch. 

Fresh vegetables are easy to take with you.

Fresh vegetables are easy to pack up for snacks.

Maybe when the kids get back to school, I’ll get more time to blog.  We’ll see. 

Summer Soup… and a giveaway

Soup?  In summer?  Yes, my kids love soup and even in hot weather their interest doesn’t wane.  But what makes this recipe so wonderful is that it can be eaten hot or cold.   

It is one of the simplest yet delicious soups that I know I can get all three of my kids to eat.  Even the pickiest one.  I changed the recipe slightly to be a bit lighter for the summer. I added milk and cream instead of just straight heavy cream.

Potato Leek Soup  

  • 7-8 medium or 4 large potatoes (russet or similar)
  • 3 leeks (lightest green and whites only)
  • 3 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼  tsp white pepper
  • salt to taste (careful with the salt since the broth probably has enough)

Cut the leeks lengthwise then chop.  Rinse in a bowl to wash out any sand/dirt.  Once fully cleaned place in large sauce pan.IMG_1170IMG_1173 Peel and chop potatoes, add to leeks.  Add broth.  Simmer until potatoes are soft (about 25-30 minutes). IMG_1176 Take off heat and add milk and cream.  IMG_1184Use immersion blender to purée (standing blender will work too).  Season with white pepper and, if needed, salt.  Serve.  As I mentioned you can chill and serve cold too (Vichyssoise).IMG_1191

I am doing a giveaway of Dairy Pure insulated shopping bags for my US readers. Just make a comment that you’d like one in the comments section; I will select two people at random to receive the bags. They’re great for hot or cold food.

I did use the Garelick Farms’ Dairy Pure milk, which I buy when I’m not near a farm or able to get to Trader Joe’s for their organic milk. They have a “Worry-Free Flip Cap”.  “It’s easier to use and protects everything you love about Dairy Pure milk along with a 5-Point Purity Checklist. The Worry-Free Flip Cap also helps keep your milk cap where it belongs; on the bottle. Plus, Dairy Pure’s Purity Seal makes sure your milk stays fresh from farm to fridge.

Dairy Pure Milk

Garelick Farms’ Dairy Pure Milk 

  1. Our Farmers pledge NO artificial growth hormones
  2. We Test all milk for antibiotics
  3. Continuously quality tested to ensure purity
  4. Only from cows fed a nutritious diet
  5. Cold-shipped fresh from your trusted dairy within hours”

I also like that it’s not ultra pasteurized.  The flip-top cap does make it easier to open, pour and not lose the cap. 

Disclosure: I was ever so slightly compensated for this post.  And they asked me months ago, but I couldn’t get around to it with my schedule. 

Summer on the Run

Too many reasons to list why I’ve been remiss in writing.  Been very busy is first and foremost and will have to do for now.  But, I’m still cooking up food, occasionally having a tough time with my youngest two and sometimes I get stuck in a rut of the same food all the time.  But with summer comes so many possibilities.

Summer can actually be a tough time to eat well but it shouldn’t be.   Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant and they should be incorporated into all meals.  What I’ve been noticing is that unless I cook at home, it’s hard for my kids to get many of those fruits and vegetables in places we might be on a given day.  The lake that I grew up on is where my boys take swimming lessons.  The kids love the concession stand there.  But it gives me added stress because they serve fried food like “curly fries” (curled, spiced French fries) and chicken tenders (yes, they’re real breast meat, but they’re still fried), hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.  They do sell salads but when given those sorts of choices, my boys always want the fried food, burgers and dogs. They also sell ice cream and other “frozen confectionaries” like SpongeBob popsicles and PopShots (quick frozen dots of artificially colored and flavored juice).  And besides the poor nutritional value in these foods, there’s the cost.  It gets expensive if you eat this food daily or even semi-weekly.  So, of course, I have to set limits before we go.   Like, “today you can have _____ but no _____.”  Or, “I’ve made us lunch, we’re not getting anything but an ice cream after, and only the real ice cream, not the colored stuff.”  Or even, “I don’t have money today to buy anything.”  They hate that last one.

Here are a couple of ideas I’ve found success with while at home.  One of my all time favorites are the magic beans.

http://mykidsreallyeatthis.tumblr.com/post/817847938/magic-beans beans 

http://www.mykidsreallyeatthis.com/colors-of-summer/IMG_0570 purple pot corn rainbow chard

 

http://mykidsreallyeatthis.tumblr.com/post/24610269430/doesnt-need-to-be-gourmet

IMG_0712

While out, I try to order sides of vegetables or salads.  If we’re at friends who are only cooking up hot dogs and burgers with maybe chips, then I try to fill them up on more veggies while at home.  Healthy sides and snacks like the roasted seaweed snacks and cut up fruits and vegetables help fill the nutrition gap. 

And as my last link suggests: it doesn’t need to be gourmet to be healthy. 

Meals for Practice, Game & Other Activities Nights

Spring is such a busy time around my town.  Many moms I know are so happy when summer arrives because evenings less hectic, since we usually don’t have to cart kids around to practices/games/scout meetings/lessons/club meetings plus still get home for dinner, homework, baths/showers as well as getting them to bed in time so they’ll get off to school the next morning on time with hair neatish, teeth brushed, homework completed and fed breakfast.  Lately I’ve noticed requests and conversations about how to feed kids on those hectic spring evenings when they have all those after school activities.  Especially if a mom/dad has more than one kid in a variety of sports with different days and times when these are scheduled.  

Fresh vegetables are easy to take with you.

Fresh vegetables are easy to take with you.

So, how to get kids fed nutritious food they’ll eat as well as not drive us crazy trying to prepare in the 50 seconds we’re home? 
I’ve had a few posts with 10-20 minute recipes and other suggestions here, here, here and here

Crockpots are a wonderful way to have dinner ready when you’ll be home for enough time it takes to eat.  I’ve made stews, ratatouille, chili, soups in mine.  

  • Cooking a pork butt to make pulled pork is always a kid pleaser.  (Cooking the pork one day letting it cool in fridge overnight makes it easier to remove the fat.  Just reheat portions with bbq sauce).  I often serve it with coleslaw and either over noodles or on rolls. You can even wrap with foil to bring to your game/practice, etc.  
  • Chicken stew with dumplings my mother-in-law introduced me to is a family favorite. Using the left-overs for a chicken pot pie stretches the one into two meals.   
  • Roasting a chicken whole. Slice onions and line bottom of crockpot.  Remove the giblets/neck and stuff chicken loosely with celery, carrots, thyme.  Coat it with olive oil, salt pepper and Penzy’s Mural of Flavor Spice/Herb Mix and cook for 6 hours on top of the onions low.  You can use the leftover bones to make stock in same crockpot. 

What if we’re not home at dinner-time?  Picnic-style dinners to bring with you, maybe even eat in the car.  
Cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers are fabulous to travel with and you can always bring some Ranch dressing if your kids like it.  Yesterday we met with friends and I had a store-prepared tabouli, hummus, couple of cheeses, crackers, carrots, olives and yogurt squeezers with a bottle of seltzer.  This was fine to tide them over or even to give them a balanced meal. 

 

Cold pasta salad with vegetables & pesto

Cold pasta salad with vegetables & pesto

Tomatoes sliced, basil chiffonade...

Tomatoes sliced, basil chiffonade…

CSA greens, Tatsoi & Cilantro salad

CSA greens, Tatsoi & Cilantro salad

As I mentioned before you can wrap sandwiches in foil as well as burritos, quesadillas, and even full meals.  There are so many containers out there to help you manage eating on the run.  

If you have time before they get home from school plus the creativity and patience it takes, you can make fun bento-style containers for each kid.  I love looking at some of the designs out there, but I’ve never had the time nor inclination to do it myself!

Quiche/Egg Pie – whether you make it or buy it many kids will like this classic egg pie. There are so many varieties with various ingredients.  My kids love the NZ version with 2 crusts: Bacon & Egg Pie.

So, no need to always go to the drive-through at fast food chains or always stopping to pick up a pizza.  It can be done with either some preparation or just a little planning. And summer is just around the corner!  (Even though it feels as though winter finally just ended.)

 

Cince de Mayo

It’s my birthday and also Cinco de Mayo.  So, I’ll be going out with my family and enjoying a margarita.  

Avocado salsa

Here are a few of my recipes to make salsa at home.  First one is a chunky guacamole, the second a quick tomato salsa, and last is mango salsa.  

http://www.mykidsreallyeatthis.com/a-simple-way-to-make-a-delicious-avocado/

http://www.mykidsreallyeatthis.com/quick-salsa/

http://mykidsreallyeatthis.tumblr.com/recipes

A one pot meal ALL my kids liked

My posts have been few and far between.  I’ve taken on another job and barely have time for laundry (actually have 4 baskets to fold and put away, when I finish this one). Lately my one pot meals haven’t been as successful for all three of my children.  One or all of them will often not like what I’ve cooked, except when I make chili.  They all (usually) love that.  But this classic Italian dish I tried for the first time and they all devoured it and raved how delicious it was.  And not one complained about any of the ingredients (mushrooms, hot peppers).  095

I didn’t look up any recipe for this, but adapted it from versions I’d had in restaurants.  I altered it slightly for my younger sons by not adding the hot cherry peppers until I’d dished theirs out. So, I catered to their tastes slightly, without compromising the whole dish.  My youngest like black pepper but aren’t really into very hot spicy dishes yet. Whereas, my eldest will add Sriracha and habanero powder to almost anything.
This takes about 20 minutes to make with breasts and longer with thighs.

Chicken Scarpariello* with Spinach
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chicken breasts or 4 thighs, cut in pieces
½ cup white wine
1½ cups of chicken stock
1 qt of mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of baby spinach
3 sausage links (I used precooked spinach & garlic chicken sausage, can use sweet Italian)
Handful of hot cherry peppers (can use sliced red bell pepper if you prefer)
¾ Tbsp dried oregano
¾ Tbsp dried basil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in pan over medium-high heat, add onions.  Sauté for a several minutes, after they’re nearly translucent, add the garlic. Sauté for another few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside the onions, garlic. Put pan back on stove and add more olive oil if needed. Sear the chicken pieces for a couple of minutes then add the onion mix back in (if using bell peppers, add now).  Add the wine, then after about 30 seconds add the stock. After stock has started to simmer, add the sliced sausage, mushrooms, spinach, and herbs. 087088091  Turn heat down to medium-low and cover.  After the spinach has wilted and sausage is warmed through, add hot cherry peppers, if you’re having them.  Add salt and pepper then serve over pasta. (If you are using chicken thighs, make sure they’ve cooked throughout.  165°F. Breasts don’t take as long.)  094

I guess this is technically two pots since pasta needs to cook separately!  102 098 Feet up instead of thumbs up!104

 

My kids really liked this and ate it all.  It’s one I’ll be making again soon!

(*my version)

Cutest Review

My seven year old son had to write a review or critique of something in his first grade class.  He chose to write about the restaurant that’s just opened near us (and I’m actually bartending at a couple of times a week).  I had to share the review because in my thoroughly biased opinion, it is adorable.  

7 year old's opinion

7 year old’s opinion

My eldest son, who is now 12, said that it should’ve read “if you like high quality food” instead of “chicken fingers”, but everyone’s a critic.

Some people might see this and may think, “Vanessa allows her kids chicken fingers?” but that is often a misconception on my food views.  Yes, I do allow chicken fingers and fries and other stuff, just not all the time. Plus The Spinning Wheel’s chicken fingers are whole pieces of breast meat with their own breading.  It’s not made of mechanically separated parts mixed with who-knows-what.  

I have a couple of recipes for those who’d like to make their own at home. My original one is here and another one has a crunchy coating. They’re much, much healthier than the majority of prepared chicken fingers/nuggets/popcorn you’ll find in the stores or fast food places. 

One thing I find I often need to do if we eat out and they order from the children’s menu, is to order a side of vegetables or a salad, because too commonly, restaurants don’t serve vegetables with the kids’ meals.  

If you take your kids out to eat, do they share their opinions on the food?  Do they get a balanced meal? 

The Dr. Seuss Method of Getting Kids to Eat

Last year I wrote about being the character Sam of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.  I was just  reading the book, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, to my youngest son the other night.  Then last night had a moment where I felt like I was again Sam-I-Am.  My youngest is now seven years old and until a couple of weeks ago, broccoli was one of his favorite foods– not just one of his favorite vegetables, but of all foods.  Until two weeks ago that is; now he’s decided he no longer likes broccoli.  No, he hates broccoli.  My logo is of him eating broccoli with a huge smile on his face.  If he hates broccoli, I think, I’m done for.  But I remember what my mother said she learnt from Dr. Spock (not the Klingon Dr. Spock, but the baby book author that was popular in the 60’s & 70’s).  She said kids will go on “jags” eating nothing but one food until they suddenly no longer want that food.   I’m hoping this broccoli dislike is temporary. 

Anyway, my youngest is already my pickiest eater by far.  Well, when I made dinner last night, I took the vegetables I was going to use for a stir-fry and instead made a pasta dish.  It had garlic, shallots, green onions, broccoli, purple cabbage, shredded carrots, shredded cauliflower, zucchini, sugar snap peas and chick peas with a little olive oil and stock.  Number Two cried a bit at first then added ketchup (a trick a friend told him about and I said he could try), took a couple chickpeas out and ate most of it.  My eldest ate all of it and declared it delicious. My youngest son refused to taste it.  Wouldn’t eat a bite.  I just said he wouldn’t get anything else until he ate it… or at least tried it.

Fast forward an hour or so.  Youngest son is in the bath, probably with dessert on his mind.  I brought the pasta dish in to him and said, “Just try it, try it and you may see.”  He did without fuss and then requested I heat it up.  Of course I obliged and then proceeded to feed him in the bath (yes, I fed him like when he was a baby) with no train, fox, mouse or car in sight.  He even said he liked the broccoli “with the pasta” though he didn’t eat every piece and he asked to not have to eat the chickpeas (he loves hummus but not whole chickpeas).  The other thing he tried which previously he said he disliked was zucchini. I  explained that he might actually like it if he gave it a chance.  Immediately he said he didn’t but as he chewed and then swallowed his face softened and he said he did actually like it! 

He liked it!

He liked it!

I was so happy he ate so much of his dinner that he’d originally refused to touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole.   It seems like I had the Sam-I-Am touch again.  

Don’t give up; sometimes you just have to catch them at the right moment — like when they are hungry enough to not fight you on it and they will actually try something new or healthy.

Baking Hacks- for when you’re short on time

While preparing to bake a Sticky Banana Toffee Pudding, I decided to share a few of my baking hacks; things to do to make baking easier and more successful. 

You may notice recipes usually state ‘use room temperature eggs (as well as) butter’, but you may not have taken the eggs and butter out to warm up enough by the time you’ve started baking.  It’s actually quite important when you’re creaming butter, sugar and eggs to not have butter and eggs that are cold.  If you don’t have the ingredients at the right temperature it won’t cream properly.  If too cold the butter will look like tiny pieces of rice in a puddle of egg stuff.  And if you’ve melted it, it also might not bake properly.  (Whereas in making pastry (crust) you do want cold butter.)

These tips will help get around the time constraints, so you can have warm enough ingredients.

IMG_0991Most commonly people know to soften the butter in the microwave, but it’s important to cut the butter into small cubes and use a low setting.  It’s also helpful to move the pieces around on the plate or bowl, so that they’re evenly softened (otherwise some melt while others are cold).

IMG_0989Once you’ve gotten the butter temperature correct, placing it into a cold stainless mixing bowl will not help your goal.  It’ll cool it down again.   So, put warm water in the bowl or place the bowl in warm water for a couple of minutes and tip out before adding the butter.  Too hot and butter will melt.  But warm, the butter won’t congeal again.IMG_0993

IMG_0988Last tip is one I discovered myself but I’m sure it’s been done elsewhere.  Since we refrigerate our eggs in the US, one usually needs to plan to bake with eggs by taking them out of the fridge in time to take the chill off.  But you can place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.  Again, not hot water, but warmer than lukewarm.  The butter, sugar and eggs will look fluffy if you’ve got the right temperature. 

These tricks will help you bake great cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and cookies.

©2014 MyKidsReallyEatThis