A Little Sneakiness Sometimes Necessary

Not usually one to sneak vegetables into my kids food, except maybe throwing some kale or spinach into smoothies, every once in a while I feel it necessary.  My youngest two are the picky ones and if we’ve been out and about a lot, I realize they aren’t getting enough greens.  Unfortunately, my youngest isn’t getting it at school either, since he doesn’t like how they cook the vegetables and only picks carrots for the raw ones.  So, I made a green sauce as a way to combat this.  Luckily my kids aren’t afraid of or avoid green sauces: they like pesto and green Thai curries.  Since my middle son complains when too many items are mixed together- say in one pot meals, it prompted me. Instead of having lots of greens they may pick out and mushrooms, which all three eschew, I blended them all together with herbs and garlic to make the sauce. IMG_1483

Green Vegetable & Herb Pasta Sauce
Blend together in food processor or blender:
2-4 garlic cloves (depending on size and desired intensity)
2 good handfuls of basil, parsley, and/or cilantro
6-8 baby crimini or white button mushrooms 
2 cups kale, spinach or swiss chard (or similar green vegetable)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
(Optional: add 1/4 tsp cayenne for extra spice)

Using thighs or breast, cut chicken into bite sized pieces and add to 1 Tbsp Olive oil over medium-high heat sautéing until slightly browned. Lower heat and continue to cook chicken until nearly cooked through.  Add cup of sauce to the chicken. IMG_1485IMG_1488Add 1/4 cup of cream.  Add any extra vegetables you wish (or don’t add any if your kids won’t eat the dish with them in it).  I put in baby kale and spinach. Cook another 5-7 minutes until sauce is heated through and vegetables slightly wilted.  Serve tossed with pasta.  Finish with Parmesan if wanted. I also added tomatoes at the end (although I knew the youngest two wouldn’t eat the tomatoes).  

At least I knew my kids got a meal they found delicious and one I didn’t care if they pushed aside the greens. 

Everything’s better with bacon!

This idea is so simple.  Take some favorites and combine them into an awesome meal.  I can practically guarantee that your kids will eat it.  I suggested dinner’s ingredients to my husband because I knew we would all like it.  Of course, I don’t have to tell him how to make it, but I also know it will be great— and different than the way I’d make it. (Actually when we discussed the recipe, I found out how differently I would have made it!

I was off dinner duty as there was a typical huge mound of laundry to fold/sort and my husband was luckily not disagreeable about cooking (sorry, I mean, I didn’t feel guilty about asking him to cook dinner when he’s off work from cooking).  He’s usually always agreeable about cooking, I just don’t want to have him regret it. 

Chicken Mushroom Bacon Pasta

Boneless chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces

5 bacon strips, diced

1 quart shiitake and/or crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 leek, cleaned and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 handfuls baby spinach

1 plum tomato, chopped

½ cup chicken stock

¼ cup white wine

½ cup heavy cream

pasta of choice (we used fusilli)

Salt and pepper

Sauté the bacon until about halfway done.  Add leeks until the leeks are soft then add the garlic until done. Leaving fat behind, take out bacon, leeks and garlic.  Add wine to fat and reduce for a couple of minutes.  Add the cream and reduce until thicker.  Add chicken, stock and mushrooms— cook until mushrooms are soft.  Add tomatoes. Cook another minute then set aside. Cook pasta and drain.  In the larger pot add spinach in with pasta then throw in rest of mixture. Toss until well coated.

So, the dinner was delicious and the kids loved it!  I love getting a meal where they all like it, eat it all and not one complains.   Pasta, chicken, bacon, leeks, mushrooms, cream…as my eldest said “Everything’s better with bacon”. Funny thing was that my middle son said at one point, “But I don’t like mushrooms” so I reminded him that he’s said before that he likes mushrooms when in a cream sauce with chicken. “Oh, yeah.”  He continued to eat it all… mushrooms included.


Fred Flintstone at 5

We recently got our lamb and beef “shares” from our CSA/Shared Harvest.  The other day I mentioned the lamb burger my middle son initially whined about.  Today we had shoulder lamb chops.  My husband had made a marinade last night for them— olive oil, rosemary (from a friend’s garden), garlic, salt and pepper.  Simple, but oh such a wonderful combination of flavors that complement the lamb so well.  He grilled them over whole wood charcoal and served them with couscous and haricot verte (thin green beans). 

My middle son had said earlier that evening, after asking what was for dinner, that he didn’t like lamb because it was chewy, but I reminded him of the burgers and he instead helped my husband grill the meat and was very keen to try it.  My eldest also helped in the preparation of the dinner, plus he’s usually very good with most foods.  But the most surprising thing around dinner tonight was my youngest.  Not only was he wanting the lamb, he wanted my lamb. 

If you notice the kids usually have colored plates (blue, green) and adults have white, but tonight my son wanted the bigger piece of lamb. (Last night it was the plate with the largest portion of green beans.)One that hadn’t yet been cut.  So, I took what was meant to be his plate.  He was just so eager to eat the grilled chop that he didn’t want an already cut-up piece, he wanted the Fred Flinstone portion. Which also meant he had more couscous, which my eldest kept trying to steal.  

It was so funny and also so nice that they all loved everything on their plates with no whining in earshot!

Another quick, last minute meal

I have way too many tomatoes right now so I keep using them in recipes.  One  confession to make: sometimes I end up throwing them into the compost.  It’s not my preferred method of using them, but I just have too many for me to get to.  So, today after putting in some time at the farm where we get our CSA I learnt that you can freeze tomatoes to use in sauce (ok, I just have never done it, nor thought that it would be that great) but I decided to go the other route— canning.  I have bought some mason jars and other supplies. I remember making jam as a kid and preserving it, so if I could do it then, I’ll try it now. 

In the meantime (I just bought the stuff today, give me a day or two), I made some salsa on one day and pizza with the tomatoes as base another. I also used some cherry tomatoes in a killer I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-making-for-dinner-now-because-I spent-too-much-time-chatting-on-the-playground-oh-yea-I-can-make-THIS-pasta.  (I was going to make chicken gumbo, but that keeps getting pushed back due to time). I used to throw together these great chicken and pasta dishes that are like my version of stir-fry…whatever vegetables I have in stock that actually go together will go into the dish with chicken, garlic, basil and tomatoes.  I try to make it with mushrooms, because they’re perfect here, but I had none.

I used a bit of kale, corn, broccoli, onions, zucchini, orange bell pepper, and carrots.  Fussili pasta is perfect, but ziti or farfale will go nicely too.   It takes 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook (using chicken breast)— if you don’t have to interrupt for looking over kids’ homework or refereeing a squabble.

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Garlic and Tomatoes

  • Approx 1 pound chicken breast (or thighs), deboned, skinned and cut into 1-2 inch pieces (thighs take longer to cook)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 med onion or 2 shallots
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered or 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • choice of fresh vegetables, chopped  (spinach, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, carrots, corn, kale, chard, snow or snap peas, asparagus and/or mushrooms) 

Put pasta on to cook according to instructions. While that’s cooking: sauté onions then garlic in pan.  Add chicken and lightly brown on all sides, careful not to burn garlic.  Add wine and stock.  Cook for few minutes and add vegetables that take longest first (kale, carrots, peppers) then others (mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, corn).  While stirring, cook another couple of minutes then add herbs and tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Mix gently and cook for 2 minutes until tomatoes are warm but not disintegrated.  Toss pasta so well coated with sauce and veggies.  Serve.

This is always a winner with my kids.  Not everyone will like every vegetable each time, but it hardly ever elicits a protest because there’s pasta.  It’s great to get rid of left over vegetables and perfect for lunch the following day. And, it uses up some of those tomatoes. 

The tomatoes give it a fresh sweetness that goes so nicely with garlic, basil and pasta.  You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken.

Food Drama (White Clam Sauce)

So yes, my kids really eat this and that but sometimes it is not without a battle. Sometimes one of my kids will have a meltdown when he see what’s for dinner.  Most often it’s our middle son; he’s the most melodramatic.  It can be somewhat comical to watch him throw himself down on the ground and cry that he doesn’t want to eat what we’ve made.  It’s not really sad because we know he’s just overacting to try and worm his way out of eating something he thinks he won’t like.  He switches it off as quickly as it begins.  The funniest part about it is watching him eat his dinner with such enthusiasm after all the drama and he’s often the child who actually eats the most of it.  What we have to do is ignore the histrionics in the beginning and be confident in what we’ve made— we are fairly certain he’ll like it if he just gives it a chance. 

It can be challenging: how long should we let the drama go on?  Do we cave in and give him something he’ll actually eat so that he won’t go hungry?  To the former, not long because it gets ridiculous otherwise and to the latter, no.  Plain and simple, no.  Unless something is so spicy that they can’t tolerate it, I refuse to give a banana or a yogurt or some mac and cheese just so they’ll eat something.  I’d never get my kids to try half the things they do if I yielded.  They have to try the dinner.  They don’t have to eat it all.  And I won’t give dessert unless they’ve completed their meal to my satisfaction; i.e. all or most of the veggies.  But most often our meals are trouble free; especially ones they have often or include their favorite ingredients.

Twice this week my middle son was especially over-the-top.  One day he cried and cried that he didn’t like linguini white clam sauce anymore after my husband made an absolutely delicious one— before he actually tasted it.  The next day he threw himself on the floor and rolled out the back door when he found out spinach was in the pork dish we were having for dinner.  With the linguini— once he got to the table and tasted it he ate it all, slurping up the pasta with gusto.  With the pork dish— he loved it, spinach and all!


White Clam Sauce

  • 50 little neck clams or 1 pt container of fresh chopped clams and 1 bottle clam juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 lg garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch (mixed with 2 Tbsp water until lump-free)
  • pat of butter
  • If necessary salt and/or crushed hot pepper to taste

Shuck clams over a strainer with bowl underneath to catch juices.  Chop clams until they’re about 1-2 cm pieces.  Place in fridge until later. Put pasta on to cook if using dried.  In large skillet heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic until they’re cooked but not brown.  Add reserved clam juice and reduce at medium-high heat until juice is about half the original amount, intensifying the clam flavor.  Add corn starch slowly until it’s the consistency you like.  Reduce to medium heat, add clams and stir gently until clams are just cooked.  Remove from heat.

Once pasta is done reheat clam mixture with pat of butter, chopped parsley and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Gently stir until hot. Add pasta, toss and serve.  

  All of our kids love this dish, but it wasn’t something they all liked right off the bat.  It had to be served a couple of times before all of them dug in and devoured it like we do!So, giving in to the 6 year-old’s whims of dislike would avoid drama but wouldn’t give the opportunity to try new foods that he actually will eat with real enjoyment.