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. 

Summer Pasta Salad

Corn, zucchini, basil, tomatoes, peppers… it’s August!  The garden is bursting, the CSA bin is brimming, the stores and farmstands are overflowing —it’s the season ‘round here.  What to cook/pack when you have parties or picnics, camp or beachside lunches?  A pasta salad that is not only healthy, but tastes great. 

Cook corn in oven, on grill or in boiling water as you would normally.  Here we boiled it for 5 minutes then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking.  Then cut corn off cob.  Also cut the stem-end off the zucchini and boiled it with the corn.  It takes about the same amout of time, but with end cut off you can check its doneness.  

Cook corn in oven, on grill or in boiling water as you would normally.  Here we boiled it for 5 minutes then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking.  Then cut corn off cob.  Also cut the stem-end off the zucchini and boiled it with the corn.  (It takes  the same amount of time amount of time, but with end cut off you can check its doneness by just looking at how done it appears.)  Once it was done, also dunk into ice bath.  Cut in half lengthwise then into smaller pieces.

Cut up orange bell pepper and  tomatoes (without seeds).  Both of these are raw. 

I have noticed that (some of) my kids prefer certain vegetables raw and other veggies cooked.  Peppers raw/mushrooms cooked; tomatoes raw/zucchini cooked; carrots raw/broccoli cooked… it can depend on the child(ren) so remember when you’re preparing something like this to try and get it to their preference so they’re more likely to eat it!  By not overcooking you retain more nutrients and sometimes by adding fat can make it easier to convert those nutrients in the body.  Don’t avoid all fats.

Mix veggies with cooked fusilli, penne or farfalle pasta (these are all great in pasta salad) and pesto sauce.  If you don’t want to make your own, buy some fresh. 

Make sure you season with sea salt and pepper if needed.  Chill or serve just room temp.  



Most all kids love pasta.  My kids love this salad because of the pasta, crunchiness of the corn and peppers, the colors and the fresh flavors.


Packing A Punch

Amazing what a handful, or even just a teaspoon, of herbs can do to a dish.  Put a tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme with chicken and it adds such a magnificent dimension of flavor.  Whether that chicken is roasting whole or sautéing pieces with cream and wine; mmm…yum.  Throw some cilantro into Asian or Mexican style chow and it can intensify the already fantastic flavors.


I lifted a fairly plain salad to another level by adding chopped mint, parsley, dill and cilantro.  Just a little of each so as not to overpower the other or anything else.  It was so delicious and fresh tasting; so summery. 

One herb that I’ve had wonderful success growing in my garden is basil but unbelievably I’d never made pesto before… someone else has always done it, until now.  We’d gotten some in our CSA bin plus I have some growing outside so I thought I’d give it a try.

I looked up a recipe in The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook and then adapted it for the amount I had on hand and my tastes.  (I had a block of Reggiano Parmesan that I grated from myself but you can find some pre-grated in the cheese section of supermarket or Trader Joe’s.  I can’t recommend enough to not use the canister of powdered Parmesan cheese, it’s not going to give you the quality results.)



In the Cuisinart I chopped together

  • about 5 cups of basil
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmegiano Reggiano
  • salt & pepper to taste

Once blended to a choppy paste, while Cuisinart was on, I poured into top opening between 1/2- 3/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until its consistency was right.  You don’t want it too oily. 


It was perfect for us.  We had the pesto on Rigatoni pasta. The boys really enjoyed it.  Initially they only wanted plain pasta with butter and salt, until they saw it— they wanted to taste it.  Once they tasted it, they asked for their pasta with it. I had mine with chopped tomatoes, the boys just pesto.  I didn’t put it on too thickly for them, so they could get used to the flavor.  It can be a little intense if it’s heavily sauced. 


Pesto is great with chicken and shrimp; in a grilled vegetable sandwich with fresh mozzarella; even on dollop on top of a grilled rib eye steak. 

Supposedly those herbs are healthy too.  Packed full of nutrients.  I know that they make foods taste great and my kids love those foods. 


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