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. 

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)

Yes, I use dessert to get my kids to eat “good” food.

I had way too much mushroom, leek, ricotta stuffing left over from the raviolis so I was trying to think what to do with it.  My husband suggested stuffing chicken breasts, which would have been wonderful, but I’d already decided: I would incorporate it into a lasagna.  It became one layer that would normally have been mostly ricotta.  Most of the remaining ingredients were from Trader Joe’s. I used their Spinach, Fontina and Roasted Garlic chicken sausages, Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese, plain ricotta organic tomato basil Marinara.I also had some left over cooked spinach that I chopped and put in with ricotta.

Let me digress: so many advice columns, books, blogs, etc that pertain to child nutrition/feeding tell parents not to have “bad/good” words about food and tellparents not to threaten kids with not getting dessert if they don’t eat their good food.  Sorry, but, I don’t agree with this.  I want my kids to learn what “good” food is and what is junk.  And I don’t always give dessert.  I don’t think it’s a given every day/meal. And I do sometimes use dessert to get my kids to eat well; especially my youngest two who are such sweet-tooths and if it’s something that I know they should eat/will like and they’re just not touching it.  

I think sometimes we need to “use” whatever we can to overcome the natural desire in most kids for sweeter foods.  For instance, I never put chocolate in their milk just to get them to drink milk and now I don’t have to.  I want them to develop the taste for the more bitter, sour or less-sweet foods (especially many vegetables).  I remember in my university psychology classes the studies showing babies reactions to foods— sweet foods: happy faces, bitter foods: scrunched up and sticking out their tongues in disgust. Babies are born with a natural affinity for their mother’s sweet milk and distaste for bitter so that they won’t ingest poisonous plants.  As parents we need to teach our children what foods are safe and good for them.  So, I think part of teaching is using verbiage like good and bad— just like we would with sharp objects, hot stoves and drugs. 

Anyway, I  had all guns blazing the other night when I made the lasagna and my two youngest were initially refusing to eat every part of it (besides just the noodle).  My eldest ate it without taking a breath!  I had chocolate covered ice cream bars for dessert.  The night before they didn’t get them because they didn’t eat all their vegetables, so they knew I meant business. Well, it worked.  Not only did they eat it, they liked it. And they were so happy to have that ice cream.

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.


Stuffed Chicken Breast

Though chicken can seem boring at times, it’s versatility can make it wonderful.  Chicken goes with so many different types of cuisines and flavors.  It’s just about putting a bit of effort into changing it up from time to time.  The supermarket had thin sliced chicken breasts on sale, so I bought some to stuff; they’re not worth the price difference otherwise.  I’ve never actually made stuffed chicken breasts before but enjoyed them many times.  My husband ended up coming home just in time to make these too!  Wonderful thing about stuffed chicken breast is how versatile they can be: you can make all different kinds of stuffings — all types of vegetables or like this one, sausage and vegetable stuffings.  It doesn’t take as long as one might expect too. 

Sausage, Mushroom, Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

8 pieces of thin sliced chicken breast or 3-4 pieces of regular breast, sliced lengthwise

1/2 med onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Italian sweet sausage links, removed from casing (slice lengthwise and separate)

8 Crimini mushrooms, diced

1/3 package frozen organic spinach (thawed) or

                        4 oz. fresh spinach, steamed and chopped (squeeze out excess water)

Handful or two of shredded flavorful cheese (we used Quattro Formaggio from TJ’s— Asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, and Provolone)

Salt and pepper (check before salting as it might not need any)

2 Tbsp melted clarified butter for oven roasting

Tbsp olive oil for sautéing

Optional breaded coating:

Panko or regular breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp flour

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350F. Sauté onions with olive oil and when nearly clear, add garlic and sausage.  Using a flat wooden spatula, break up the sausage as it’s cooking.  Once it’s brown add mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender.  Add spinach and mix well.  Pour into a metal bowl and chill (in a pile of snow if you have as much as we do!) for a few minutes. Mix in the cheese and check for seasoning.  Put Tbsp of stuffing mixture on chicken breast and roll. (Optional bread crumb topping would be done now.  First dip piece in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.)  Put clarified butter in bottom of pan so chicken doesn’t stick and pour a little over each roll.  Pop in oven for 20 minutes and serve with your favorite sides.  We served it with harvest grains, broccoli and snow peas.

My sons all loved this dinner, although my middle son complained about mushrooms being in it before he’d even tried it.  He ate the entire dinner anyway. The boys ended up eating the chicken like sushi rolls with their fingers (no grandparents around to disapprove). 


Bonus:  I had leftover stuffing mixture that I turned into a layer of lasagna the next night.

Merry, Merry, Happy, Happy

I am recovering from knee surgery so won’t be posting much for a few more days. 

I did actually make the boys and I a wonderful chicken, mushroom and zucchini dish last night which was very similar to the one posted here.  My middle son now loves zucchini (yippee!— he “hated” it only months ago) and my youngest loves mushrooms so it’s a win-win dinner.  It only took me 20 minutes from start to finish (chopping and all), so it’s great for a quick and nutritious meal and easy while using crutches!  I served this one over brown rice (cheated here— frozen TJ’s Organic brown rice takes only 3 minutes in microwave). 

Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.  May the New Year be full of peace, happiness and health.


Forgot to buy cream… now what am I making?

Sometimes my dinners aren’t what was originally planned.  The other night I was going to make the chicken and mushrooms in cream sauce that my kids all love, but while I was browning the chicken I remembered I’d used the last of the cream to make scones the day before. So, mid cooking I needed to change course.  I had brown rice in my rice cooker.  I had the mushrooms all cut.  I’d pulled out a zucchini… so what direction should I go?  I went Asian style stir-fry.  I added sesame oil, fish sauce and soy sauce to the chicken once browned and set that aside.  I cut up a small broccoli crown, remaining half a head of cabbage, and the kid’s carrot sticks left over from their snacks.  My husband came home from work and helped by chopping garlic, grating fresh ginger and thawing/shelling edamame (soybeans).  Boy, at the speed of light he can mince that garlic into tiny pieces— I couldn’t even imagine doing.  I threw in some frozen red, yellow and green peppers.  And voila, a delicious meal that was not what we planned, but was so healthy and delicious. 


You can do this with whatever vegetables you have on hand that seem to go together.  I purchased the Cascadian Farms organic frozen peppers and edamame because they are handy and also great in stir-fries.  Not every vegetable freezes well, but some are fine and they actually retain their nutritional value plus you won’t worry about unwanted additives (the linings from cans or pesticides) this way.

Chicken, Mushroom, Vegetable Stir Fry

5-6 boneless chicken thighs (or 2 breasts), cut into 2 inch pieces

3 Tbsp tamari soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 quart shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/2 quart white mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp fresh ginger grated

1-2 carrots, chopped

1 small broccoli crown, cut into small pieces

1 organic zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then sliced

1/4-1/2 small cabbage head, chopped

handful organic edamame, shelled

handful organic peppers (multicolored), sliced

canola, sunflower or peanut oil

Brown chicken in 2 tsp oil over med-high heat.  Add soy, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Set aside. Add another 2 tsp oil and sauté mushrooms.  Add garlic and ginger, stirring well for two minutes then add broccoli and carrots.  Keep stirring for another two minutes then add zucchini, peppers, cabbage, edamame, chicken in soy mixture.  Stir occasionally until vegetables are tender.  Check seasoning and add more soy or sesame as needed.

Serve over brown rice or rice noodles.


My kids all loved this and ate their entire meal without fuss.  Ok, well, my middle son saw it and said he wasn’t going to eat it and didn’t want it before my eldest and younger sons told him that it was delicious.  It was.  I was the lucky one who ate the leftovers (it was enough to feed all five of us with one remaining bowl for next day’s lunch).  My middle son was the first one of the kids to finish. 

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t what I planned. It was healthy, tasty, easy and the kids ate it.

Three Potato, Four

(Continued from One Potato, Two Potato)

This is honestly one of our family’s favorite recipes.  It takes time, so don’t try it if you don’t have any time.  I usually only make it on Sundays or when there’s a holiday. 

Mushroom and Leek Scalloped Potatoes

5-6 peeled potatoes (I like Yukon best)

2-3 leeks (white and light green part)

quart Shiitake mushrooms

quart Crimini mushrooms

3 cups cream

salt and fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

tsp olive oil and Tbsp butter for sautéing

Highly season (nutmeg and lots of salt and pepper— only time you’ll be adding any) and lightly reduce cream (bring to boil then turn down to med-low heat) for 15 minutes.  Set aside.  Slice leeks into rings and soak in cold water to remove dirt.  In a sauté pan heat olive oil and butter sweat the leeks (lightly sauté covered) making sure they don’t brown.   After couple of minutes add mushrooms and continue until both soft.  Using a mandolin slice the potatoes into thin slices (about 1/4 inch).  Layer in 9×13 oven dish potatoes until bottom is covered.  Add a layer of mushrooms and leeks.  Add another layer of potatoes. Repeat.  Pour cream over top so that it just reaches top layer.  Cook in preheated oven at 350 for an hour.  Place a cookie tray or piece of tin foil on rack beneath to reduce overflow spill cleanup.   This is such a delicious treat.  The flavor combination is heavenly.  And it’s enough for a couple of meals. The kids and every adult that’s ever tried this has loved it.   My youngest tends to pick out the mushrooms first because he loves them so much.  He also tends to leave the leeks on the plate.  My middle son leaves his leeks behind too, but he makes a little more noise about it.  Whereas my eight year old just wolfs it all down as it should be enjoyed.


And they were so happy with dinner that it led to an impromptu family dance.  Think it started as a broccoli dance, but they all got a little carried away!

Tall Tales

I was so happy last night when I served the kids dinner and there were no complaints or whines.  Actually there were exclamations of delight from my youngest son, “Snow peas!” and “Mushrooms!” — music to my ears.  They all dug into their bowls of stir-fried vegetables with rice noodles with true pleasure and bit of hunger.  “No snacks, it’s nearly dinner time.” really worked.   Maybe the late afternoon hike helped.

The glee that my three year old exhibited reminded me of how I got my eldest son to try mushrooms when he first refused.  He was in preschool and loved Power Rangers;  even though he’d never seen an episode of the TV show, he knew how they moved, their names, etc.  It’s almost like osmosis how they learn about superheroes before they’re old enough to see them in action.  Anyway, I just told my son that mushrooms were Power Rangers’ favorite food.  Wide-eyed with joy and holding in his fork the food that his heroes liked, the previously distrusted fungus, he eagerly tried it.  And he liked it.  I know mushrooms can be tough for adults let alone kids, especially those who grow up with canned ones on pizzas, the texture can be a turnoff.  And, yes I lied to get him to try it.  But to me it was worth it.  There were no pleadings of “Just try it, I really think you’ll like it.” or “Please?  Just one tiny bite.”  He just thought if it’s the Power Rangers favorite food it must be good.  I mean, Popeye the Sailor loves spinach, so why not Power Rangers liking mushrooms?   Funny, I don’t want to hide the vegetables so the kids don’t learn to like them for their own flavors, textures and colors, but I have no qualms about spinning a yarn to get them to eat them.

Our dinner last night had some frozen vegetables and a side from Trader Joe’s.  I was down to just a couple of skinny pieces of kale, very little beet greens, a pepper, carrots and lots of tomatoes (which I was kind of sick of) from our CSA bin.  We did also have leeks, but I am saving those to make scalloped potatoes with leeks and shiitake mushrooms tonight.  So I pulled out a Trader Joe’s stir-fry package— mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, carrots and soy beans.  I steamed the beet greens I’d stripped off the stems and cut across a few times, then repeated with the kale.  I didn’t want any bitterness from them to change the flavor of the stir-fry, that’s why I did them separately.  I then put the rice noodles in to cook while I chopped half an onion, 2 garlic cloves, fresh ginger, a greenish-reddish bell pepper and a couple of carrots.  So in my pan I heated the sunflower oil, sautéed the onions, then garlic, carrots and peppers. Added the ginger, stir-fry package, kale and beet greens.  To this I combined with 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce and 2 tsp sesame oil.  I cooked stirring the whole time for a few minutes while the frozen vegetables softened and heated.  At this point I added the cooked and drained noodles and stirred it all up until it was well mixed.  It was ready to serve. I’ve served similar dishes lately, but each one is a bit different, depending what we have in stock.  The vital part was that it was healthful and delicious.  

While I was cooking this I had steamed in the microwave some Trader Joe’s frozen Gyoza dumplings.  I served them as an appetizer and alongside the stir-fry with a side of tamari and sesame oil (6 parts soy, 1 part sesame oil).  Easy and quick,  plus they all ate it eagerly.  No tales necessary.

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Thankfully I write this in Word first.  Tumblr didn’t actually post my entire post with photos and all! 

Continuing on a cheap dinner theme, I bought 4 Springer Mountain chicken thighs on sale for under $3.  They aren’t perfect, but fairly good chickens- no antibiotics and humanely treated.  I wish they were outside getting greens and bugs, like I said, they aren’t perfect. 

Anyway, I decided on a dreary summer day that stewing or braising the chicken in a tomato based sauce would be perfect.  My youngest had picked out wagon wheel-shaped pasta, so I thought this would go well with it.  Since I still had some ratatouille left I knew it would go great with the chicken, but how to have it so all the kids would eat it… I added only about 1/2 cup full toward the end.  It added a wonderful subtle smokiness to the dish.  So, also using a CSA zucchini I’d forgotten that I had put in the fruit drawer since I had no more room elsewhere in my fridge and mushrooms I bought, I made a wonderful meal that everyone loved.  And since all of this was made in one pot (besides boiling the pasta), it was an easy clean-up.

Chicken Zucchini and Mushrooms

4 Chicken thighs (I used with skin & bones on)

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini- sliced

1 cup shiitake and crimini mushrooms- destemmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot (or 1/2 white/yellow onion), minced

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp chicken base (Knorr Roasted Chicken Base)

1/4 cup water

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 Tbsp fresh thyme- chopped

1 Tbsp parsley- chopped

olive oil

salt and pepper

Optional: I added 1/2 cup of grilled vegetable ratatouille that I had left over. 

Heat olive oil in hot pan, brown the chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper) skin side down first for about 4-5 minutes each side.  Set aside.  Pour off excess fat.  Sauté shallot, garlic and mushrooms (if necessary add a little more olive oil) over medium high heat and set aside when done (not brown).  Keep stove on med-high and pour wine into pan and let boil off for a minute.  Scrape sides of pan to get chicken bits and then add chicken base and water.  Stir well.  Add chopped tomatoes, herbs, shallots and garlic.  Add chicken so that skin side is down, cover with sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and reduce heat.  Let simmer for 30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.  Add zucchini and mushrooms (and ratatouille if you have it) Cover.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes.  You can either take chicken off the bones or leave whole. 

Serve with pasta or rice.  We took ours off the bones (since there were 4 pieces but 5 people) and also added the pasta to the pan. 

This can be done with various different vegetables and without mushrooms.  It’s very delicious the next day too! My middle son whined so long that he didn’t want it.  I even tried to record him… he loved it and finished it without fuss. 

 They all did!