I’ve been a wee bit busy

It’s been a long time since my last post, but I have not stopped trying to improve the healthy intake of food by children around me. But I may be a bit less obvious about it. My kids are growing… eldest now 14 and youngest 9! When I started this I had a three-year-old. So, their food choices are overall healthy, but of course, they’re kids, so when given a chance, they’ll eat the junk. But I’m so proud that my kids overall shun McDonald’s and the like. I’ve always tried to be open to the occasional unhealthy foods/snacks/candy so that my kids had a healthy attitude with food. They don’t hoard food and don’t overindulge when given the chance to eat candy and other unhealthy stuff. And my eldest knows that if he has more than one soda at a meal, he’ll feel ill, so he has one and done. It’s the balance that I’m proud of. They will eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables and they like spicy foods, international foods, fish, meats, etc. I do still wish they’d eat more combinations of vegetarian options. My middle son still steers clear of most foods combined in one dish besides some pasta dishes and chili. He likes things separated on a plate with distinct tastes for each item. 

Growing up quickly and enjoying Chicken Aloo Gobi

Enjoying Chicken Aloo Gobi (curry with coconut, cauliflower and potatoes)


Proud dad looking on









One of the reasons I’ve been remiss in writing is that I’ve been busy. Really, really, busy. Growing boys have sports, scouts, Odyssey of the Mind, plays, camps, school, music lessons, play dates, etc. And now year-end shows, parties, concerts… I’ve also just gotten a new job and no longer working as an investment advisor. I was laid off from my company when it went a little more corporate and got rid of its smaller producers who worked from home. You’d think that would’ve given me more time to write then, but another reason is that I stopped writing is that I felt we were in a pattern food-wise and I didn’t have much to share. I’m certain I’ve created recipes, but when I did, it was probably at a busy time, and I just didn’t get it on here. 

Before I got my new job I was working as a cafe supervisor at my son’s elementary school. I loved working there with all the children. The woman who was my coworker felt that many of the kids were being “bad” if they were talking to friends at other tables and she didn’t exactly do things the same way as I did. But after some time, she tolerated my “let’s make this fun, not punitive” attitude with dealing with the kids. (They’re just babes really, 5-10 year olds.)  One of the changes I made was in encouraging the students to eat more fruits and vegetables. I’d done that as a parent volunteer, but this was different, and more challenging, as an employee. I felt it necessary when I’d see what the kids ate every day. Like the boy who for his lunch had white bread and butter, cheese slices, blue jello, blue cotton candy, chocolate and no vegetables. He did have grapes but refused to eat them, because he ‘tried them once and didn’t like them.”

At first I brought in an apple slicer. So many of this age group are dealing with loose baby teeth and gaps until their adult teeth come in, so they’d shy away from whole apples. Slicing them was easy and it increased the number of kids who’d eat apples. Some told me that when I wasn’t there, they wouldn’t buy apples because they’d only eat them sliced. And since I’ve gone, apparently they’re not eating them anymore. 🙁 

I also piggybacked onto the reward system the school used in classrooms and hallways… for respecting self, others, environment. So, if the kids brought in from home or chose from cafeteria 3 or more fruits and veggies, they’d get a reward. The reward would be put in a bin and at lunch we’d choose 4 winners to pick friends to sit with at the reward table or pick a prize from prize box. It was amazing how quickly those kids would rush back into the lunch line to grab more fruits and vegetables or tell their parents to pack more. Then if there were some kids who never ate any (and I mean never) then I’d offer them a reward for just getting 1 or 2. And they found they liked more than they’d ever realized. 

Mostly what I found was the kids were willing to try new things and eat more if they felt there was an immediate reward for it, it was fun, or it was just easier to eat. I hope that some it stuck and since I’m gone they’re doing it at home or school. It’s not always that hard, and they are all good kids.

Here’s a link to my summery grilled peach & ricotta toast which will be perfect for the upcoming season. 

Summer deliciousness

Summer deliciousness

Perfect for Autumn

Made a new recipe for our cooking club yesterday.  It was the first time I’d been in a couple of months and I needed some time for just me.  I’ve been so incredibly busy with helping my husband open his restaurant (it opened one week ago today) —doing whatever I could to get it off the ground running in the right direction (helped with menu, made some desserts, created some cocktails).  I paid a sitter for several nights to go in and pick up the slack wherever it was needed (running food, bartending, waiting or bussing tables) to work for free.  Not that I can afford to, but I want to dedicate my experience for our long-term success.  Most restaurants are disorganized and discombobulated in the beginning and ours was packed from the moment it opened.

So… a friend gave me a gorgeously designed book as a restaurant opening gift (I think she designed the book) about decorating/gardening/entertaining for a particular season.  It has recipes interspersed and one caught my eye.  It was for curried pumpkin ravioli with an apple onion sauce.  Our cooking club theme this month was pumpkins and apples. How perfect, I thought. 

Well, I took it and modified it a bit.  First off, I used Butternut squash instead of pumpkin and I roasted mine whole (it keeps all the sweetness from running out) instead of canned pumpkin and I added some different spices, and substituted pecans for walnuts.  You will need time for this recipe but it pays off! I made a similar dish another fall.

Curried Butternut Squash Ravioli 
(adapted from a Pumpkin Ravioli recipe by Carolyne Roehm)

½ stick butter (divided)
1 lg shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1-2 butternut squash, cooked whole, peeled, seeded & pureed
12 oz ricotta cheese (whole milk)
1 pack of wonton wrappers

1 med onion, finely chopped
2 Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & cubed
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup pecans, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream

First cook the butternut squash on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350˚F for an hour or more (depends on size/thickness).  You can tell when it’s done when you stick a skewer through the densest part (near base of neck). Not a clear photo, but hopefully you get the gist.

(Didn’t use cloves in the end)

Next melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and sauté until soft.  Turn heat to medium and add ginger, garlic, spices and some salt.  Sauté another few minutes then add 3 cups of butternut squash.  Mix well and continue to cook for a few minutes.  Remove and cool.  Add the ricotta cheese and cool for at least half an hour.

Before adding ricotta

Using parchment paper on a cookie sheet lay out some wonton wrappers.  Take a teaspoon and drop a dollop of filling in center.  Wet edges of wrapper with water and your finger.  Place another wonton wrapper on top and press around the edges to seal.  Pick up the ravioli with an open seam at top then carefully burp the air out (so that it won’t open when brought up to temp).  Press sealed edges with a fork if you wish.  Repeat. Once the first set of ravioli has filled the sheet, place another piece of parchment on top and continue until you’ve run out of wrappers or filling. Cover with a slightly damp piece of paper towel.

Start the sauce by cooking onions in a sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter (and I use a touch of grapeseed or sunflower seed oil) until translucent then add apples and wine.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the chicken stock and pecans.  Cook until apples are soft then set aside while you cook the ravioli.

Bring large pot of water to rolling boil.  Carefully place a few ravioli in at a time.  While a batch is cooking bring sauce back up to heat (medium-high) add cream and simmer for a minute.  Ravioli take about 3 minutes to cook (translucent and floating).  Scoop ravioli out with slotted spoon or mesh spyder, draining well. 

Top with sauce and serve immediately. 

It was so delicious and worth the effort.  But unfortunately only one of my children will eat it!  Maybe you’ll have better luck… actually today I’m going to try with a different sauce with some leftover uncooked ones.

Manic Kitchen Maniac Part I (apples)

Some days I can cook lots and lots of things in one day, if I set some time aside that is.  Yesterday was one of them.  We had been given a huge bag of apples from my son’s preschool teacher (her trees were dropping them faster than she could collect them) so I decided to make apple pie.  And apple sauce.  And cinnamon rolls earlier from a white dough I’d started the day before plus one loaf of spelt-white bread and a little boule from the left-over white dough.  And then I thought, why stop?  Since I’d already roasted a butternut squash the night before, and didn’t make them then, I  decided to make raviolis to bring to a friend’s… plus it was nicer than sorting and folding the laundry piled up on my bed.  

The cinnamon rolls I made from a Mark Bittman recipe using the bread dough that I often make; but I think next time I’ll use a different dough, either making it flakier or chewier.  It just wasn’t right, or all that wonderful, so that’s a fail on my part, but the kids still liked them.  Not many kids wouldn’t— they were warm, sweet and cinnamon-y.   But to get them out of the way in my little kitchen of the other baking and cooking, I threw them in the oven, which I reheated for bread and pie.  Oops.  The photo is post reheat. 

Since I had the Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything cookbook out, I used it for my pie crust and as a basis for the ravioli filling. So after cinnamon rolls were made and bread was sitting on my island getting in its last rise, I started on the pie crust.  The recipe was fairly easy using my food processor, although I must have put my dough into the freezer longer than the time suggested in his recipe since it was too hard from to work with easily (rolling) and it just added time and frustration.  Luckily I wasn’t doing my PMS induced Mommy Dearest impression, that was a day earlier, I was much easier going in— except for the fact that I was in a cooking frenzy, it was still a happy go-lucky frenzy.  When I was finished mixing the crust dough I put the bread into the oven and started on making the pie filling.  I have been making apple pies for several years and use my own recipe (but I’m sure it’s just like many others). 

Apple Pie Filling

  • 6-8 apples depending on size (using Macintosh-type use 8, Granny Smiths 6)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (plus more in water for keeping apples from browning)
  • 1 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces

So that the apples will keep their lovely color after I peel them I put them in a bowl of cold water with some lemon juice squeezed in and the piece from which it came.  After peeling the apples, I cut them in half and scoop out the core with a melon-baller and cut out the ends in a triangle cut. I find it retains the most apple and creates even sized wedges for the pie.  Once apples are peeled and cut, in a separate bowl mix the spices, sugar and flour.  Toss apples with spice mixture, add lemon juice then pour into the crust.  Add small pieces of butter around the top of pie filling. Add top crust, pinch closed (brush bottom crust with water to help seal) and score to release hot air.

I baked this one at 350 for 15 minutes then increased temp to 450 for 20 minutes then back down to 350 for last 20 minutes only because I had forgotten to start it off at higher temp until 15 minutes in!  You can bake it at 450 first then lower it for rest of time. 

While pie was in the oven and bread was on counter cooling (I’d taken them out just minutes before pie went it) I made the apple sauce.  My mother-in-law taught me how to make it and it’s the best I’ve ever had.  I cut about 12 apples into chunks, leaving out core and ends but leaving on the peel, and placed in a large sauce pan.  Add 2 tbsp water, 1/4 cup of brown sugar/white sugar and  1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Mix well then cover.  Heat over med-high heat for about 7 minutes, stir and reduce to med-low heat.  Stirring often, cook apples until they’ve reduced in size and are mushy, about 20-25 minutes.  Place a food mill over a bowl, pour cooked apples into mill and grind them through.  Ready to eat!

Now at this point I was hemming and hawing over laundry or continue cooking, but since I had the food mill out and I really wanted to attempt making them (plus some encouragement from friends over facebook), I stuck with cooking and made the ravioli. 

To be continued…