Bacon Love…meets pizza love

My kids love bacon.  I love bacon.  But we don’t eat bacon often. 

This was my cross of a BLT and a Margherita pizza.  It’s made on the Middle Eastern Flatbread I’ve used for pizza before. Of course it’s got bacon…

I used up some left-over spinach, mixed shredded cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, jack, queso blanco, fontina), sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and a side salad.  

I also cooked the bacon on parchment in the oven.  Came out so evenly cooked and yummy!


This one came out fuzzy— my camera’s been acting up again.  🙁

Yes, the kids loved it.  Well, they all loved the bacon.  My youngest one didn’t want to eat the pizza— just the bacon off the top.  We compromised (over an hour later) with him eating all the salad and I gave him some left over chicken from the night before.  


This gallery contains 3 photos.

Chickpea salad I brought to friend’s party on Saturday.  3 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)1 cup plain Greek yogurt2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives2 tsp cumin1/2 tsp cayennejuice of 1 lemondozen chopped grape tomatoessalt & pepper to taste … Continue reading

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.

Grounded Buffalo Chicken

I’ve loved the taste of Buffalo wings (spicy chicken wings originally from Buffalo, New York) since I was first introduced to them in the mid to late eighties by my older brother who went to university at RPI in Troy, NY.  As they are usually too spicy for most young kids, mine hadn’t ever had them (they’ve had wings, just not Buffalo style).  I don’t get out as often as pre-kids and wings are not something I make at home, but after reading a recipe for chicken cakes I got the idea for chicken burgers— and in particular Buffalo burgers.  We had good friends coming over for dinner the perfect opportunity for creating my idea.  I knew that the younger kids, especially my spice-sensitive middle son wouldn’t do well with them so I’d make plain chicken burgers as well.   For sides I prepared roasted butternut squash, roasted potatoes and a garden salad. 

I like both dark and white meat of chicken and decided to use both to give it flavor and tenderness.  I used around a pound of each and had enough to feed 10 people.  By adding the sauce to the ground chicken before they’re cooked it gives that tangy-spicy taste in each bite.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • chicken breasts and/or tenders
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • blue cheese
  • ranch dressing

Add butter to hot sauce and microwave on 20 seconds.  Set aside. Mince the chicken in a food processor.  Add other ingredients, reserving a Tbsp or so of hot sauce mix, and pulse until well mixed.  (To make plain just add salt, pepper and olive oil).   Take scoops of chicken meat and form into patties.  I used a griddle to cook the burgers, but you can grill them too.  Cook until 165F.  Just before removing from heat spread some hot sauce mixture to increase heat as desired.

Serve with slice blue cheese and/or ranch dressing.  I used Cambozola Blue (cross between Camembert and Gorgonzola) which is nice and creamy.  The older boys had Buffalo burgers and preferred ranch dressing on them while the younger ones had plain chicken burgers with ranch, ketchup or just as is. (Garnish as desired).

For the butternut squash, just peel and chop into bite size pieces, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Transfer to cookie sheet and cook in preheated oven starting at 450F for 10 minutes and finishing at 350F for 25 minutes.  You can cook the potatoes at the same time on another rack.

Completing a well rounded and colorful meal— the garden salad had yellow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery and  romaine lettuce. 

We all loved our burgers.  The 8 year olds were daring enough to try the spicier version and they loved them!  As my wonderful friend noted the roasted vegetables helped transform what would normally be a summertime dinner into an autumn comfort meal.  It satisfied my craving but in a healthier method.

Black Bean Salad

My eldest son loves black beans.  Whenever I make tacos they must have black beans, though refried pintos will suffice in a pinch.  I buy mostly canned beans as I find my timing is such that bean cooking is not in my schedule.  I will try when things get back to more of a routine once school begins, but in the meantime I use organic canned beans.  I never thought I’d be making bread routinely before I found this recipe, so things can actually change. 

Well, summer is the season for salads and a favorite is this black bean and corn one that my husband taught me to make.  I use avocados if they’re in stock (at home) but it does fine without. 


Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

one can of black beans

2-3 cobs of corn cooked (you can use fresh uncooked corn, but I prefer cooked)

one large tomato or several smaller ones (I used a small handful of orange cherry tomatoes and a half of a small red tomato) chopped

one avocado chopped

1/4-1/2 of one Serrano, Habanero or Jalapeño pepper minced (Habanero gives nice kick and sweetness but it is very hot and you should be careful with the kids)

handful of fresh cilantro chopped

1/2 green onion (scallion) chopped

1/4 red onion diced

one lime

sea salt and ground pepper to taste


1/2 tsp cumin

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

about 1/2 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove


Mix together the beans, corn off the cob, tomatoes, green onion and red onion then squeeze half the lime over it.  Add the hot pepper in small amounts and taste to your heat preference. The pepper should be very tiny pieces so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors by its heat.  I sometimes divide my salads and salsas into two bowls when adding hot pepper so that the kids get less and adults get more pepper.  Add avocado last since it’s delicate.  Put in fridge while you prepare dressing or make dressing first. 

FYI: The proper ratio of oil to vinegar in dressing is 3 to 1.  I used a mini food processor but you can use a blender or immersion blender.  Put in peeled garlic clove, cumin (toast it if you have a moment), juice of other half of lime and vinegar.  Chop, blend, etc.  then add olive oil through top hole while on (slowly if using another machine) until its got a thick consistency and its taste maintains the sharpness of the vinegar.  Use as much as needed to give a nice coating to salad.  You can always keep the rest for another salad.  Serve chilled or room temperature. 


This salad can be used as a dip with chips, served with grilled chicken (a favorite for backyard parties), grilled shrimp or on its own.  I also discovered a new way just yesterday at lunch.  Served on top of a quesadilla with shredded lettuce and salsa.  Yum!  The boys were eating cheese quesadillas with Cabot’s Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese and I made one for myself with Cabot’s Hot Habanero cheddar for an extra kick. My eldest tried it (spicy quesadilla) with the bean salad on top and liked it.  Love finding new foods to make that they like. 

20 Minute Dinner- Start to Finish

This is one quick chicken dish I’ve come up with for when I’m at a loss for inspiration and time Throw a little Adobo seasoning powder or some Penzy’s Singapore Spice (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, cayenne pepper— all in one!!) on cut up chicken breast pieces, toss them into a hot pan with olive oil, flip around a bit until they’re cooked. If they’re small enough it’s only a matter of minutes.  (Be careful with the Adobo seasoning as it’s very salty and you need only a little.) Add a simple salad, green beans and 3 Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s…dinner in 20 minutes!


The salad contained Romaine lettuce, red cabbage, cucumber, tomato, basil and green bell pepper.  All but the Romaine were from our local CSA.  I used my go-to prepared salad dressing: Briannas French Vinaigrette.  (I’ll post some homemade salad dressing recipes soon, promise.)  The beans, also local, were coooked in rapidly boiling water for 3-4 minutes and cooled in ice bath.  Reheated with butter, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  The grains took a little longer than I thought, but still were simple to prepare. 


I wasn’t stressed out—boys got a nutritious and tasty dinner after a day outside in the hot sun.  I set up the living room table as a dining table and they got to watch a movie.  It’s at most a once-a-week treat. I prefer to eat at the dining room or outside table, but when they’ve been going full-on all day outside, I don’t mind the occasional retreat in front of the TV.

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. 


© 2010

Summer Daze Ahead

It was the last day of school today, ahhh summer… couple of months without running to make the school bus.  The past couple of weeks have included lots of picnics and parties to celebrate the year’s end.  We’ve also just enjoyed our favorite summer pastime- Sunday Concerts on the Green.  Packing a picnic or planning something to bring to a party can be tricky when trying to keep the food choices healthy, but it’s possible.  Whether they’ll actually eat the healthier choices when confronted with ice cream truck offerings and ring pops, is another story!

I made a few types of salads to bring to different events.  I got a nice surprise the other day with a box of 3 different Briannas salad dressings from the company sitting on my front porch.  Who doesn’t love free stuff?  They sent it to me because I had called them in order to respond to a reader’s question.   I’d never tried the 3 flavors they sent me, so that day used the Champagne Caper Vinaigrette on a mixed greens and Romaine salad with orange bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, mint and parsley.  The dressing was nice, a little sweet but complemented the choice of vegetables well.  The boys ate the salad without any complaints.

We used the Santa Fe dressing for a pasta salad we packed in a picnic dinner for our Concert on the Green. 

  • Cook Farfalle pasta according to directions, then chill. 
  • Blanch zucchini and summer squash whole in boiling water.  Shock with ice water and then sliced first in half lengthwise then in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. 
  • Red and yellow bell pepper sliced into thin strips (not too long).
  • Chop scallion (green onion)
  • Dress with Briannas Santa Fe Blend dressing and sea salt to taste
  • Toss all together.  Also great with chicken added.

My eldest two liked it but youngest found it a bit spicy for his three year old palate.

I also made a fruit salad (no dressing on this).  Sliced bananas and squeezed lemon juice on them —they don’t turn brown and also gives them a nice tartness.  Sliced and hulled strawberries. Picked the grapes off the bunch but left them whole (I only use organic grapes because the sulfur dioxide they usually spray on grapes makes me weeze. All my berries are also organic if not local).  Tossed them all gently with the raspberries.  I don’t find it necessary to add sugar because I find the sweetness of the grapes and bananas goes nicely with the tartness of the berries.  My children usually devour fruit salad.  We had also packed a separate container of cut up watermelon chunks. 

And for non-salad items this week we roasted chicken drumsticks.  In a large bowl, coat the drumsticks with olive oil, salt, pepper and Penzy’s Mural of Flavor (mixture of garlic powder, thyme, oregano and basil would do).  Roast in oven for 45-65 minutes at 350F (you can start it at 425-450 for 10 minutes for crispier skin).  After 45 minutes check temperature with instant-read thermometer, should be 160 to remove from oven.  Will continue to cook while it rests.  You can make this to eat immediately, but is delicious cold too.  The kids love eating drumsticks because they’re allowed to pick them up and eat them without forks. 

We also brought along the bread almost every event we went to lately.  I’ve been experimenting with combinations of different flours and really like the 1 cup spelt, 1/8 cup ground flax seed and 1 7/8 cups all purpose (unbleached, unbromated) flour.  It only takes minutes to mix and just being around to bake it.  There’s just something about fresh baked bread that’s still warm.  My kids can hardly get enough of it. 

With all these great foods to choose from, kids are bound to eat well.  Of course an after dinner treat of an ice cream from the ice cream truck is bound to please.

© 2010

It can happen… in time.

I just finished a spur-of-the-moment dinner with a friend and her kids. They are my biggest challenge. Not all of them, really just two. But since they aren’t mine I can only suggest, but not as persuasively as I would with my own. With my kids they get what they get and they don’t get upset.  Well, at least I ignore if they whine and try to make sure they get everything I’ve made— with a few modifications— like not giving the child who absolutely won’t eat a certain vegetable that one if there are other veggies to serve him.  But this is different; these two are extremely picky and I feel bad if I can’t get them to at least try some things. I certainly won’t push and just try to find things they will like. This is where the hiding foods inside other things might work. But I think it will happen in time if they’re not made to feel bad about their choices and stress them out.

I had originally planned to make this great pork stir-fry I created from a hodgepodge of several recipes. Since time was not on my side and I knew none of the other kids would eat it I made Mystic & Trader Joe’s Pizzas that I had in the freezer and made a large (what I consider) kid-friendly salad. It was romaine, orange bell pepper, cucumbers, celery, and red cabbage. I used a Paul Newman’s dressing because, again, it was late.  I love these children and their mom and I’d rather them stick around longer with something they would eat than scare them away with my cooking.  One of her kids actually tried something for the first time!

When should you start kids eating healthfully?  From the beginning. Is it ever too late? Probably not; there are plenty of stories of people becoming chefs or food critics because their parents were awful cooks or didn’t feed them well. And as my mother says kids get on “jags” of things and will eat something until you’d want to puke before eating it yet again, yet they’re perfectly healthy. But then there are the other stories, the ones more common these days, of childhood obesity, diabetes and other health issues. I look around and see so many kids and teens who don’t look healthy and I assume (maybe incorrectly) that they don’t eat well.

If your parents didn’t feed you well, how do you change? Is it harder to learn to eat well if you were brought up with bad food choices? I think those who’ve been eating well from day one (or at least from 6 months old) have several advantages- they will have better health benefits from an earlier age and less likely to be obese or ill; they will have a better relationship with food; less likely to have food-related issues or constantly on the latest diet; they will enjoy food for the tastes and pass on the suitable food lessons to their own children. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed if you got a bad start. I know my friend’s mother was a bad cook and had issues with food, but my friend is trying to give her kids the healthier choices and never once have I felt her decisions were made because she doesn’t care, she just didn’t have the same foundation that I had. But she’s learning really quickly and for that I’m proud of her. She even says I inspire her, which is flattering. Her kids are beautiful, inside and out, and I am so happy they will have a better start than their mom. 

So, my tips on a proper foundation: start them off feeding them those strained beans they might spit out a few times, not just the apple, pears and sweet potatoes. Eat with them. Let them see what you eat, feed them what you eat. Get them interested in foods by planting vegetables, shopping at farmers’ markets or farms and cooking with them. Don’t treat the vegetables like a punishment, they are delicious, but kids need to get accustomed to them.  Don’t quit. Really your kids will eat them.