A cauliflower by any other name

Sometimes it’s just mentioning the name of the food that can turn up the nose of my kids.  But change it a bit, don’t mention the name and wham, they like it.  Totally by accident I again found this out.  I didn’t purposefully omit “cauliflower” when I had my middle son try the soup I’d just made, because he of all my sons loves cauliflower. I just said, “Here try this.” It’s the other two who profess to “hate it”.  That is until I made the soup.  They saw it cooking and my youngest one asked what the smell in the kitchen was, so I showed him the cauliflower soup still in it’s adolescence.  He looked and said, “Yuck! I Hate Cauliflower!”  and walked away.  Well, after I puréed the soup, and it no longer looked the same, I approached my cauliflower-loving middle with a spoonful.  He ate it and requested another spoonful immediately, so my youngest sitting next to him and not wanting to be left out, said, “Hey I want some!”  “Ok!”, I gave him a taste.  And another, and another.  And so on and so on. Well then my eldest wanted a taste.  And another… so much for cauliflower hating.  They all had more.  I think the spices and appearance were just camouflaging enough that they were open to sample.

I adapted Spicy Cauliflower Soup from The Art of Simple Food byAlice Waters

Curried Cauliflower Soup

2/3 lg head cauliflower, chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion diced

1 sm carrot, peeled and diced

3/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

3/4 tsp coriander seeds, crushed

1/2 tsp hot chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro chopped or 1 cube frozen cilantro

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup water

Sauté onion and carrot in olive oil. Stir in spices and remaining ingredients. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes.  Purée with immersion blender. Optional garnish- – plain yogurt, mint and lime juice

Snowed In!

This past week my kids have had a 6 days in a row without school (only 2 were actually snow days) and they’d just returned from the winter holiday break and had a snow day the week before.  In the morning I will find out if it will be 7 days in a row.  Luckily the inability to get to school has also turned our town into winter wonderland and without having to travel, the kids have had a blast sledding, making snow forts and just playing in the more than 2 feet of snow.   If they stay inside too long they drive me and themselves crazy.  Snow is such a great draw to play outside; it’s much more fun than rain! 

When the first big snowfall of the year was falling I made a simple, quick yet delicious and nutritious meal using leftover roast chicken.  We had chicken quesadillas, broccoli and cauliflower, brown and red rice, black beans and peas.  Since the rice was left over from a previous meal it took only 10 minutes to cook/assemble the whole dinner. 

I used pre-shredded cheese (Cheddar, pepper Jack and Muenster), chicken and chopped cilantro in the tortilla.  My husband showed me how the Mexican cooks he works with cook their quesadillas by putting the filling inside one half then folding the tortilla over it.  I think it’s easier to flip.  Once they’ve browned nicely and the cheese is melted you can cut into pieces and serve.  I didn’t have any avocados for guacamole (and wasn’t going out in the snow) but did have some jarred salsa.  I only had to heat the peas and beans (added oregano, 1/4 tsp chili powder, some chopped cilantro and garlic powder) and reheat the other veggies and rice. 

The kids loved it and it was so little effort.

Funny thing about peas…My middle son said he had to “turn the plate around for the peas express” so it was easier to scoop up.  My youngest said when he saw the plate, “I don’t want any. I don’t like them!”  I just reminded him that peas are in snow peas and sugar snaps, which he loves, so he tried some. Minutes later when he’d finished all the peas on his plate, “Can I have some more?” 

Babysitter: Hot Dogs for Dinner

I got a babysitter so I could go out for a friend’s birthday.  I figure when the kids really don’t want me to go, it’s time for treats.   So dinner may incorporate stuff we might not eat regularly, but I still try to choose the best of the worst and accompany with healthier side dishes.  And no matter if they’ve finished they’re allowed ice cream for dessert.  Anything to make the babysitter’s job easier and their time with her more fun.

My children, like many other kids, like hotdogs.  But we have them rarely.  I only buy organic nitrate and nitrite-free hot dogs, most likely from Trader Joe’s or Applegate Farms.  As I just posted earlier, contributing factor(s) in meat-associated health problems isn’t the meat itself but the stuff they put in (processed) meats.  Cold cuts laden with sodium, nitrites and nitrates have been linked to cancer and other diseases.  I have stayed away from them for years, before I knew any of that, because they tend to be a migraine trigger.  I boil them then in a pan slightly brown outside to give it the snap. 

So, I made hotdogs with a fairly plain salad, cauliflower and mixed grains and rice.  I steam my cauliflower for a few minutes until a toothpick can just go through easily.  It’s not overcooked and it reduces the granular texture that can put some kids off raw cauliflower. One trick that I got from my mother, is to add a squeeze of lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper to the cauliflower when it’s time to serve.  Lemon and black pepper are great together and they give it a little zing.  My middle son adores cauliflower but we don’t have it very often since it’s my husband’s least favorite vegetable.

The grains were Three Grains Blend  (rice, barley and spelt) from TJ’s.  Chicken stock was used instead of water.  It gives it the umami taste (“The Good Taste” or “5th Taste”) or savoriness that almost everyone enjoys.  You can try to add something that has umami to foods that kids might not otherwise like to hit the right notes in their brain.  MSG is used in Asian cooking just for that purpose.   An umami addition can change something they would find yucky into yummy (like sprinkling some parmesan cheese on top of some broccoli). You can read more about it here.

Anyway, I feel it’s not always necessary to have just junk as a treat. The trick is finding the right ratio that satisfies kids and moms.  I try to make sure mine get what they need while giving in to some of their wants.  Babysitters love happy kids too.