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)

A Rebuttal- Cult of Organics

The other week I read a post on BlogHer called The Cult of Organics.  Although I consider myself a moderate voice when it comes to food politics and beliefs, I still took umbrage with it. I’m sorry that the author got condescending reactions to her food choices, but I believe there are plenty of good/viable reasons to choose organic foods– some of the time.   Money is an issue for me but I still buy organic milk.  I buy organic strawberries.  But, I don’t buy only organic foods.  I choose which foods I buy that don’t need to be organic and those which do.  I might pay more for some of these choices, but it’s a price I’ll pay now so my children don’t need to pay it later with their health.  I guess I also consider myself a “food snob” because I care about and enjoy food; it’s a big part of my life.  I am not part of a cult but an informed consumer, who is concerned for the long-term effects of pesticides, over use of antibiotics and uncertainty of GMOs on my children’s well-being. 

It may be surprising, but I am also the mom who allows my kids junk food, occasionally,  and I let them drink a soda when at a party, and I also throw a frozen pizza in the oven when I need   to.  But when I choose most foods, they are healthful and often times, made at home.  I think lumping everyone who buys organic or chooses to make homemade-from-scratch foods in as “elite” or “food snobs” doesn’t give the author credibility as a moderate voice.  I don’t think I’m hostile to people who choose non-organic versions of foods, but I found the article to be hostile toward those trying to educate others about them. 

Even if you haven’t read studies, articles or books on pesticides in foods (like those with endocrine disruptors); pollutants that have gone into our rivers and oceans affecting the flora and fauna; bee colony collapse; cancer causing ingredients that are banned in other countries; rises in autoimmune diseases, allergies and neurological disorders; children starting puberty younger;  or the rises in obesity, you can often see the difference in organic over conventional fruits and vegetables… a potato that’s not organic won’t sprout eyes but will just go rotten.  Or how about those ginormic strawberries that are perfectly, uniformly red, but lack a true strawberry flavor? And do you really want to buy your food from the world’s largest herbicide company –which is also the largest seed company?

I will choose antibiotic-free meats because food-producing animals are being given more antibiotics than humans as the norm to prevent illnesses that better living conditions could solve.  Those antibiotics get into our foods and water and we are getting close to an era where antibiotics will no longer work for us humans.  I don’t mean to be fearmongering and sensationalist, I am just trying to say sometimes organics are the best choice.  (In my parents’/grandparents’ day there was no such word as organic food there was just food, because then there was a fraction of pesticide/herbicide use and no GMOs.) As far as Jayson Lusk’s arguments against organics in Food Police go,– he doesn’t dissuade me, I’m not in it for most of the reasons (mostly economic) he gives.  Many studies giving out favorable information on conventionally grown foods are funded by food companies who grow the food, they not only fund the studies but consequently benefit from the dissemination and promotion of those very studies.   

I will not buy berries, apples, spinach, celery, potatoes or corn that are not organic (or at least locally produced without GMOs and most pesticides).  But I will buy broccoli, cauliflower, peas, avocados, mushrooms.  I am not a cultist or someone who is extreme.  I am an informed consumer.  My children’s milk is usually organic and always without hormones.  And the one thing I am not is rich.  Far from it.  I struggle, especially because my husband has been unemployed since January and was basically working for free for several months before that.   But I will forgo movie outings, dining out, new clothes,  cleaning people, and expensive salon trips to put the money into our food choices. 


Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe's - just a little bit more expensive.

Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe’s – just a little bit more expensive.

And I will buy frozen foods.  Even some canned foods.  And many of the “Food Police” (Pollan, Bittman,  Nestle, etc) actually do say if it comes down to it: buy vegetables and fruits in any way over not buying them at all.    If you’re looking, I find that Trader Joe’s is a great place to not only find well-priced foods but also those that are free of GMOs, artificial colors and other harmful ingredients.   Choosing to join a CSA actually saved me money and I was introduced to many new and different foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.  And those foods are pesticide-free– bugs are hand-picked then squashed.  So it’s possible to buy organic foods on a tight budget.  

I try to share information on how to prepare foods that are healthful and convenient.  I love cheap food but realize there are prices to pay.  For me it’s the whole economics — health and wealth are the factors in my decision making. I also think it is worth the extra money. Sometimes.  So, sure, let’s have some reasonableness.  Just realize us “food snobs” or those you claim are in an organic cult aren’t always the ones with the hostility.  Want to find quick ways to cook healthy foods?  Search through my blog; it’s got plenty of ideas and many of them take short-cuts so they’re convenient. You might also find my popular pizza that takes so little time but is actually pretty healthy.

So, let’s get along but understand, tolerance goes both ways.  

Meatless Meals

I often make meals without meat, but it’s usually when my husband isn’t here.  He just seems to think you need protein in each meal, but I don’t think it has to be animal-based.  After reading Mark Bittman’s recent article in the NY Times I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that way and my husband’s not the only who eats his way.

How much meat/protein is too much?  I’ve noticed often parents will be happy if their kids get protein through chocolate milk and yogurt but not give as much consideration to the kids’ vegetable (especially green veggies) or even sugar intake.  “At least they’re getting their protein.” is a common mantra.  But is it right?

Milk, yogurt, chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, and protein-fortified food and drinks.  I think my generation got a little obsessed with protein and overlooked the vegetables. 

We don’t need more than a few ounces of protein a day.  An 8 oz. burger is 4 or 5 oz. too many and especially if that’s not the only protein that person has had that day…  And that’s the recommended amount (around 3 to 4 oz or about 100 grams) per day for an adult. 

We are told we should be giving kids about 5 to 9 servings of whole* vegetables and fruits (*I just mean with the fiber of it; not just juice) daily.  So, the fruit flavored yogurt, fruit snacks or juice don’t count.  I found the best way to figure out what a “serving” is, is it’s about a fist-full.  A child’s fist is their serving size and an adult’s fist is our serving size. 


So, following in the footsteps of Meatless Monday, I’ve decided to serve some Meatless Meals (Whatever the Day).  And also try to pay some attention to how much protein we’re taking in during a day or week.

One was meal was Eggplant Parmigiana that I totally cheated on and lied about.  Cheating part was that I got frozen eggplant cutlets from Trader Joe’s which I baked first (according to package directions) then placed in oven-proof dish topped with their Organic Tomato Basil Sauce and shredded mozzarella.  Baked it until cheese was melted and sauce hot.  Served with roasted cauliflower and tri-colored radiatore tossed with olive oil, butter, sea salt and a little garlic powder.

My kids have never been big fans of eggplant unless it’s in ratatouille or a similar dish.  So I lied.  I had one try it first and when he said “Yum, what is it?”  I lied.  I can’t believe I did it, but I knew the others wouldn’t even try it if they knew it was eggplant.  So, I said chicken.  CHICKEN!?!  Later on I let them know it was eggplant, but that was after they’d eaten most of it. They kind of noticed when the breading was off that it didn’t look like chicken.  Hey, I never said I was perfect or that I don’t resort to tricks at times.  I got them to eat it and most amazingly my youngest liked it the most.  Now I can make it and tell them what it really is.

Roast Cauliflower

½ head cauliflower, broken/cut into small pieces

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring ½ cup of water to boil and add cauliflower, cover.  Steam/boil for several minutes until cauliflower has softened slightly.  Shock with cold water. Drain and toss with oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Place in preheated oven at 375ºF for at least 20 minutes until cauliflower has golden brown crispy top.  Toss with parsley to finish.

Only my middle son and I loved the cauliflower.  He told his friend’s mom last night that cauliflower was his favorite vegetable.  My eldest said it was “Good.” but he didn’t want more than one piece. My youngest refused to try it.  It was so good, maybe next time.

Ideas for Busy Times

The past month has been very busy but when I was filling out dates on June’s calendar I realized May was just a teaser on what being hectic means.  So I thought it appropriate to share some of my quick meal tips/ideas for those who like me have little time to cook but want to give their kids healthful foods.  These can all be cooked/prepared in under 10 minutes.  Combine them as you like or add to another quick recipe idea.

Snow peas.  These are in season and go so well with Asian stir-frys and pasta mixtures.  They cook in a mere 3 minutes and are great as a healthy side vegetable.  One of youngest son’s favorite vegetables. Try some with dash of sesame oil, soy sauce and peanut or canola oil. 

Snap peas.  Another of my kids’ favorites.  They too are now coming into season here in the Northern Hemisphere.  They cook quickly and are great raw too!  Sweet and crunchy, many kids will prefer them over plain peas or more bitter vegetables. Just add a tiny bit of butter when cooked and watch them gobble them up!

Organic Baby Spinach.Again a fast cooking or raw vegetable.  No fuss in preparation— no trimming or cutting, just rinse and serve. Perfect to add some more dimension to a romaine or iceberg lettuce salad.  Cooks in less than 3 minutes with just a touch of water, covered.  Add a pat of butter and serve.  Great with pasta blends, stuffing for pork or chicken.  Chop some and add to prepared Nan with boursin or goat cheese for a pizza-like creation. 

Swiss Chard.  My kids love this vegetable that’s similar to spinach but earthier and more flavorful.  It can be steamed like spinach.  I chop the stems and give most to my youngest who prefers the crunch over the wilted leaves.

Frozen organic brown rice from Trader Joe’s.  Brown rice is so much better for you, for one it doesn’t spike blood sugars like white rice.  I find this an easy and delicious short cut.  One packet gives our family of five a great side that only takes 3 minutes in the microwave. (3 packets in a box.)  Brown rice usually cooks in 35-45 minutes, so it really helps save time!  My kids love the heartiness of brown rice. If you want to make a fried rice dish, this is perfect!

Pork tenderloin.  Can often find on sale.  Cut into one inch medallions for a really quick meat dish— pan fry for few minutes each side.  (145ºF) Salt & pepper  add some seasoning like Penzy’s Mural of Flavor.  My mother makes a quick sauce in the pan with 3 Tbsp tamari soy sauce, 3 Tbsp apricot jam, 2Tbsp dry sherry or vermouth, 1 clove chopped garlic.

Trader Joe’s Beef Bool Kogi (Bolgogi/Korean Barbeque).  Not exactly authentic per most reviews, but my kids and I love this as a quick meal.  Usually it’s grilled and served in lettuce but I just sear it in very hot pan and serve with rice and veggies. You can buy shaved beef and marinate it with soy, scallions, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and rice wine vinegar for your own Korean-style beef.

Chicken tenders  These are the strips of breast meat that are sometimes sold separately.  Cut these into bite sized portions and sauté, they’re done in minutes.  You can sprinkle some curry powder, paprika or garlic salt for a bit of flavor that won’t need a sauce.  Or find a really good prepared marinade from a store (with natural ingredients) and that morning cover it with sauce, leave in fridge so it’s ready to cook that night. Can use bread crumbs and bake for a fairly easy and quick meal. 

Green salad.  Whether you like lots of color with multiple vegetables or a plain salad of just lettuce(s), giving your kids fresh raw vegetables is a great way of providing them healthy foods in little time.  Go for a home made dressing of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and lemon juice or buy a good prepared one.  Just make sure its ingredient list is not full of preservatives or fillers.

Hope this helps give you some ideas so that your kids get a few healthy meals during the rush of the week!

My camera lens is broken and I’ll be sending it off to get fixed.  Hopefully will be done quickly.  I’ll pass on the recipe I used for the dal in this photo Chicken thighs, not breast were used here.

Out the door with dinner on the table

On Monday evening I brought my eldest to a swimming lesson that started at 6 pm but we had to leave the house by 5:30.  My husband was getting home just in time for me to leave the other two behind and give him quick kisses hello and goodbye.  I figured it was best to have dinner ready for everyone but my eldest and I would eat upon our return around 7:30.  I’d defrosted a haddock the day before so I needed to cook that.

Twenty-five minutes later I was out the door with dinner on the table for my two youngest and my husband: baked haddock with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro and lime (almost like a baked version of ceviche); basmati rice; baby spinach; broccolini and an avocado salsa. 

Baked Haddock with Tomatoes, Red Onion and Cilantro

                        This can be done with other flaky white fish as well.

1¼ pounds haddock

¼ red onion, chopped

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

handful fresh cilantro, chopped

juice from ½ lime

½ cup white wine

1 Tbsp olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

(optional chopped Serrano pepper)

Coat oven proof pan with olive oil and place fish on top.  Cover with the wine, lime juice and other ingredients.  Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350F (depending on thickness of fish) until it flakes.  Serve over rice. 

 Avocado Salsa

2 ripe avocados, chopped

juice from 1 lime

handful of chopped cilantro

1 plum tomato, chopped

¼ red onion, chopped

¼-½ Serrano pepper or habanero pepper finely minced

tsp olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Gently mix ingredients in a bowl and chill for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I noticed when we got back that the two boys had done a great job on their dinner with one having left only a one inch piece of fish. Although I would have preferred to eat it fresh out of the oven, it was delicious.  Definitely something I’d serve again. My eldest son and I enjoyed ours together.  He dove into the rice first and then tackled the rest of it. Each and every boy ate all their veggies and my eldest gobbled up the salsa— I had to reluctantly give up some of mine! 

Curried Chickpeas, Kale, Potatoes & Lentils

Not only am I on a curry kick but I am loving chickpeas (garbanzo beans) lately.  Luckily my kids like them too.  Hummus is one of their favorite snack foods and they won’t object to falafel or chickpeas in any dish I make.  I don’t think I started eating them until I got to university and tried falafel for the first time from the cart in the Octagon. (Dunedin’s town ‘square’ is actually octagonal.)

The other night I made a different version of my Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes from the other week.  This time I added a bunch of kale from our shared harvest (CSA), lentils and fennel seeds, which added a nice flavor dimension.  It was perfect for warming little ones up on these chillier autumn nights.  My eldest son declared it “delicious” and that he “loved it” and not surprisingly my middle son said he didn’t like it because it was too spicy but he ate more than half of it before he gave up on it.  My youngest son missed out on it because he fell asleep before dinner after a busy day of play dates and running around. 

It’s fairly easy to make especially since I used canned chickpeas and precooked belgua lentils from Trader Joe’s. 

Curried Chickpeas, Potatoes, Kale and Lentils

  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 shallots, diced (or med onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust if needed)
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 5 sm/med potatoes cut into bite sized pieces (with skins on)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • bunch kale, remove large stems and cut into strips
  • lentils (I used the beluga lentils- 1 cup)
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thai basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (had no lemon)

Sauté shallot and garlic. Add spices and stir for a minute or two.  Stir in chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, kale and stock, salt and pepper to taste. (I think I should have added it later, but it was fine).   

Cook for 20 minutes then add the lentils, basil and parsley. 

Cook for another 10-20 minutes.  This can be made in crock pot but I suggest sautéing onion/shallot and garlic and then heating the spices over the stove first then adding it all to slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3.

I loved the additional flavor that the fennel seeds added and the kale really went well with the other ingredients.  Of course you can tailor this to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry/refrigerator.  I find that eating less meat is not only healthful and good for the environment but less expensive.  Not that I ever break the food down into it’s nutritional parts; still it was interesting to find out that not only is there plenty of protein (even vegetarian version) and fiber in this dish, it also is fairly high in folate and other vitamins and minerals.  Meaning it is really good for you and your kids, as well as tasting fabulous.

My eldest son and I had the leftovers for lunch the following 2 days.