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)

Pan Fried Chicken


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Fried chicken that’s only lightly fried then baked to finish cooking.  (Less absorption of fat for those who are so concerned. But just as delicious!) Soaked the chicken drumsticks in buttermilk overnight then coated them in flour mixed with thyme, cayenne, … Continue reading

Class Moms Asked for Green Juice… Don’t Think They Expect This

My seven year old’s class is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in school today with a potato bar.  The class moms sent out a list of things they’d like parents to volunteer making/bringing in.  One of those was “green juice”.  When I saw that I jumped all over it!

Green juice… I know from past experiences with blue punch and other frightful (to me) concoctions that that meant my most dreaded food dyes.  Yes, I’ve used them, but I try not to, so if there’s a good alternative, I will choose it.  

The other day while making the kids smoothies with kale I noticed how green it was before I added the blueberries and other dark berries.  So, I figured I would make green juice with yummy veggies and fruits.  I made one batch before the kids left for school and it was vibrant in its verdant glory and really yummy.  I gave them all a taste and they asked for more.  I didn’t tell them the full ingredient list this time around, figured it might spoil their enthusiasm.  After my eldest missed the bus by about 2 seconds and was so upset I soothed him with a glass of the juice.  My youngest, who’s been home sick all week, also gratefully received a glass of the nectar.

They loved it! Now to make some more for the 2nd grade class!

Green Juice
3 oz fresh baby spinach
1 banana
3 cups water
1 cup apple juice
2 packets Yuzu Tisane drink mix (from Trader Joe’s)

Blend it all together until spinach is completely pulverized. (I prefer using blender over juicer as all the fiber is still there.)  Serve chilled. 

Next batch was also with kale.

FYI- No disrespect to the class moms.  They’re wonderful people— it’s the over use of artificial colors that I’m against.

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.


Chicken Spinach Ravioli with Cherry Tomato Sauce

I am working on my list of healthier nut-free snacks to contrast what the kids’ school nurse sent home. In the meantime thought I’d share this awesome ravioli my husband made on the boys’ first day of school at my suggestion.  It’s funny sometimes:I buy all the ingredients and just have to tell him what I have in mind.  Then he cooks it.  He cuts faster, cooks and  knows what to do better than I do, so it works well.  I just help whatever he needs help with. And he loves to cook.

He used wonton skin wrappers that I buy in the grocery section of supermarket.  They make wonderfully thin raviolis so you get more taste of the fillings.  Poach chicken breast in water for 5 minutes (until done but not tough).  Sauté ½ small onion, minced and then 2 cloves garlic, minced both in olive oil.  Add pound of spinach until wilted.  Blend in food processor with chicken, tsp porcini powder and salt & pepper.  Mix in ½ cup of ricotta cheese.  Spoon in dollop onto center of a wrap, moisten edges and press another wrap on top gently squeezing any air out before sealing.   Press edges with a fork.  Keep on cookie sheet dusted with corn meal until ready. When nearly time to serve put in gently boiling water for about 5 minutes and remove with straining spoon.   

Served with a simple cherry tomato sauce.  Take several handfuls of cherry tomatoes (we used orange cherry tomatoes) cut in half, Tbsp of fresh basil chopped, 2 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and ¼ cup of chicken stock.  Cook until tomatoes are tender, stirring often.  So easy and delicious!

We served ours with a green salad. The boys weren’t too keen on trying the sauce but I finally got my eldest to try it.  His aversion is to the seeds.  My middle son was a bit easier but my youngest flat out refused.  They all loved the ravioli but next time asked for it without sauce.  Oh well.  Different sauce for them next time or just butter! My son loves to spike & color his hair for first & last days of school.

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.

Portuguese Pork Stew with Spinach

Portugal has been known for its wonderful cuisine and great wines for centuries. I imagine Portugal’s proximity to the spice regions as well as its history (who the Portuguese conquered and who conquered them), vast exploration and trade explain many influences on its food, especially the spices used.  This dish has very distinctive  Moroccan influences.  If we make it with clams (yes, clams) and chouriço or linguiçasausage it is uniquely Portuguese.  This time, I’ve added Spinach to make it a more balanced meal for the kids. 

Portuguese Pork Stew with Spinach

1 pound Pork shoulder or butt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper (usually roasted but I felt like adding raw), chopped

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp smoked paprika

6-8 threads of saffron

2 bay leaves

¼ cup white wine

1 ½ cups chicken broth

1 lg can tomatoes, chopped

handful parsley, chopped

handful cilantro, chopped

1 pack baby spinach, rinsed

salt and pepper to taste

You could also add potatoes and chickpeas to this dish. 

Take the saffron threads and crush them in your fingers into a small amount of hot water, set aside.  Over medium high heat brown the pork in olive oil and set aside.  Sauté the onion for 2 minutes,  add garlic and continue until onions are clear making sure you don’t brown the garlic.  Add the paprika and stir for a minute before adding the pork and red pepper.  Add saffron, wine, broth, bay leaves, and tomatoes. Bring to simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 25 minutes and stir in herbs.  Add spinach and continue to cook until wilted.  Served over brown rice.  It can be made in a slow cooker to cook for 6-8 hours if you prefer.  


My youngest son was in a bad mood when he got to the table and initially refused to eat saying he wasn’t going to eat it because it was “yucky” but once he had cuddle from mommy and a taste he happily ate it.  My middle son didn’t even make a fuss (he’s normally the one who complains when he sees dinner).  My eldest was eager to try it and deemed it “delicious” when asked his opinion of the dinner.


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.