Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lotsa Mexican

     In our house, Mexican food is considered anything with beans, rice, tortillas, salsa or a combination thereof. We have a couple of favorites, ones that we have in our minds perfected so I am going to whisper quietly in your ear the secret to good mexican food...Lard! Just kidding no lard, but these are our sort of secret recipes so enjoy.

     Shrimp (or fish) Tacos


Any boxed frozen yummy shrimp or fish (ex. tortilla crusted tilapia, firecracker breaded shrimp)
Corn/wheat/homemade whatever tortillas
Optional canned and rinsed black beans 
1 recipe mango salsa
1 recipe zesty 'slaw
Optional guacamole


Prepare Shrimp/fish according to box. Prepare mango salsa, zesty slaw and/or guacamole. Heat tortillas and serve. The above and below ingredients make enough for about 3 adults so adjust as needed (that is why I have lots of "about" as you can increase amount for more servings or keep the first number for less servings)


     Mango Salsa


1-2 mangos diced
1/4-1/2 jalepeno diced super tiny
1/4-1/2 red pepper diced
about 1 lime partially zested and juiced
1-2 green onions diced


Mix all ingredients and mash some of the mango slightly, then put in the fridge to macerate (let juices combine and flavors work together) for about 30 min.


     Zesty Slaw


1/4-1/2 green cabbage cut thin and fine
bunch of cilantro chopped
a little lime juice
about 2-4 tsp coleslaw dressing, add more or less to your liking
pepper


Mix thoroughly and also chill til ready to serve.


     Our Guacamole


2 avocados (ripe) and mashed
About 1/2 tsp each dried garlic, onion, pepper and heavy dash salt. Drizzle about 1/2 tsp canola oil. Mix well and add some finely chopped tomato if desired






     Mexican Chicken Salads


Any leftover chicken, canned chicken, or 4-5 chicken tenders (or breasts if more needed) cooked in a little oil and butter with pepper, salt, cumin, garlic, and onion to taste
1 can black, pinto, or red beans (we prefer black for these) rinsed and warmed
1 c. or so cooked rice     (optional to prepare the black bean and rice boxed mixes like Zataran's to make this step easier and give better seasonings)
About 3 c. chopped romaine or other preferred lettuce or combo thereof
Bottled salsa
1/2 c. shredded cheddar, canned parmesan depending on preference
Bag of tortilla chips
1 tomato diced
1 recipe lime caesar dressing
extra cilantro to top


Layer beans and rice, lettuce, crushed tortilla chips, chicken, tomato, salsa, cheese, and lime caesar to taste. enjoy! Again, above amount is for about 3 adults, extra for kids burritos etc.


     Lime Caesar Dressing


Any super yummy lowfat bottled caesar dressing (I am all about ease here)
use about half the bottle, mix well with...
1 lime zested and juiced
extra pepper to taste
bunch cilantro finely chopped (reserve extra to throw on top of the salad)

Fun Recipes and More Leftovers

     Now I think I am just trying to get all my recipes together and out there, especially since I used some of my leftovers and turned them into quick and easy lunches and other meals. So without wasting anymore time...

     Chicken Salad


About 1 c. chopped chicken (can be leftover in my case or canned)
1/2 an apple diced
1-2 green onions chopped
About 1/4 c. craisins
Optional 1/4 c. halved grapes
About 2 Tbsp Mayo
salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder to taste


Mix all ingredients well and serve with crackers or whole grain bread. Alter the mayo to your liking.


These ingredients also make a superb chicken pasta salad. If you marinate the chicken (double the amount for this recipe) in about 1 8 oz bottle of coleslaw dressing mixed with 1/3 c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp. ginger,  and a dash of thyme overnight, then prepare all your ingredients the next day you can have a great side at dinner. This recipe comes from my sister in law and is a favorite around here. Double your fruit and veggie amounts for the pasta salad. Add 1/2-1 c. celery diced and 3/4 c. toasted almonds (you can also toast your own slivered almonds by mixing them in a microwave safe bowl with about 1 Tbsp of butter with 1 tsp. of sugar, cook on high for about 2 min. depending on your microwave. Check every 20 sec and stir to make sure they are not burning!) Cook and prepare 1 16oz box of bowtie pasta, and if you can; mix all these ingredients and refrigerate about 3 hours before serving. Delish!


     Leftover Mashed Potato Soup


Leftover Mashed Potatoes (mine had cauliflower pureed in of course too!)
1 Parsnip diced
Optional 1/2 diced sweet potato
1 small Leek diced
About 1 c. whole milk w/Tbsp butter (or 1 c. cream)
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 c. chicken or veggie broth
1/2 -1 c. Mixed frozen veggies
Salt and pepper to taste


Boil the parsnip, sweet potato, and leek in the milk and butter or cream with minced garlic til soft. Be sure to watch and stir carefully if using milk as it can scald easily. Blend slightly til desired consistency. Put back in the pan with mashed potatoes, broth, and frozen veggies. Heat through, add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. You may need more or less broth depending on how much mashed potato you have left, how thick you like your soup etc. Makes great individual servings for later too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pasta-less Spaghetti

     Spaghetti is one of my all time favorite meals EVER, add some gooey freshly baked garlic bread and green salad, and your there. Well, to make my pasta meals even more veggie friendly, I have experimented endlessly with pasta-less spaghetti. What I mean here is using veggies to substitute for the delicious mounds of buttery angel hair that always manage to consume much more of my plate then anything else. AND, I have some fav's and numerous suggestions, so here goes!

     Eggplant Parmigiana (believe it or not this is easy and relatively mild!)
1 Eggplant
1 Jar Spaghetti sauce (personal fav right now is Ragu's Veggie Primavera, only a little sugar and extra veggies)
olive oil
1/2-1 lb. Ground Turkey or other favorite meat, OPTIONAL
Spices like dried garlic, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper and/or onion for the meat
About 1/2 c. Parmesan Cheese (the canned stuff works fine here)
About 1 c. Grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. Basil (fresh, dried or those cool little refrigerator oil and water packed tubes of different types of herbs)

Preheat Oven to 350^, lightly spray a 13x9 inch baking dish. Wash and slice eggplant long ways and layer in dish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15 min. While baking, cook meat if any with a little dried garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and/or crushed red pepper for more flavor if desired. You can also puree the spaghetti sauce a little more while you wait, grate cheese etc. Be sure to add the Basil and about 2 Tbsp. of the Parmesan Cheese to the sauce. When 15 min. are up, layer the sauce, meat and cheese 2x ending with the cheese. If using no meat, add all the sauce and then the cheese on top. Turn oven up to 375^ and bake for about another 30 min. or so til cheese is brown and bubbly (sometimes we even lightly broil for a few minutes to really get that cheese going!) 

     Spaghetti Squashed Spaghetti

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
1/2-1 lb. optional meat
Parmesan Cheese for the top

There are 2 ways to cook a spaghetti squash, the first is to cut in half and remove seeds, prick a couple of times and fit into a bowl or shallow dish that will fit into your microwave and nuke for about 10 min. checking regularly. The other is to prepare the same, but bake in a 350^ oven for about 50-60 min. (you want the insides to be very soft) While baking prepare your meat if using and sauce, again we like the Ragu kind like in the above recipe and I puree it more for the texture issues with kids. Once the squash is done, use a fork to sort of peel out and separate the insides in to a bowl. Interestingly they look like strands of spaghetti! You can butter and salt them a little for flavor, up to you. Serve a little on a plate with sauce and a salad, and another pasta-less meal success! 
Side note; Spaghetti Squash can then be used in different ways as a little sort of "pasta side" cook however you prefer, then add some garlic, parmesan and butter. Or try toasted pine nuts, torn basil and pepper to taste. The options are quite limitless as you can do about as much to it as you would actual spaghetti!


     Baked Zucchini (Another super easy and fast one!)

1+ Medium Sized Zucchini's (depends on servings!)
1 Jar Sauce or portion thereof
Garlic
Optional Meat or Beans

Preheat oven to 400^. Halve the zucc's long ways, and use a little teaspoon to get out a little of the pulp. Place on a lightly sprayed baking sheet (I liked it lined in foil so I could wrap up extra later!) Bake for about 20 min. In the mean time, cook meat, puree sauce etc. I put the extra garlic in this one because I LOVE garlic, and 1-2 cloves fresh minced garlic simmering in the sauce while the zucchini is baking made it super yummy. Also optional to have the beans, I used red kidney beans, rinsed them under warm water and it worked perfectly and tasted good. This is an excellent easy meal that I sometimes make for lunch since it can cook while I am doing the kids, and make extra for other meals. Try baking with a little goat cheese, sliced olives, halved cherry tomatoes and even a little basil and olive oil for a new experience (Dr. McKeith recommends it!) The goat cheese is like half the fat of regular cheddar so super easy on the hips and thighs. Again, make extras for lunch the next day or try it different ways and you have yourself another pasta-less dish! 

     Tip #56890
Seriously though, did you know adding veggies actually cuts your carb count? For example, say Eggplant Parmigiana has 15 total carbs. per serving. Subtract the grams of fiber and guess what...less carbs! (i.e. 15-4+11 net carbs! yay for veggies and fiber!) 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If All Else Fails...Breakfast Never Does

     I could tell you that when all else fails at our house, sometimes we do give in and head to Carl's Jr. for that oh so good double cheese super star beefy and meaty burger with criss cut fries and topped off with a "it always goes down smooth" chocolate hand scooped shake. But I won't. Not that it doesn't happen (or didn't last night after a semi rough day) but I want to  focus on the beauty of an entire food group; Breakfast. 
     I may have mentioned once or twice that cereal works when you are out of time, ideas, or concern. But let's talk for a minute about the pure joy that comes from hearing shrieks of delight over buttermilk pancakes on the weekend, or cold cereal for lunch after days of experimental dinners and only the occasional kid delight of popsicles or ice cream. Maybe I spoil them, but I have to hear that sound every so often to reinforce that I am not doing so bad, even if it is just for MY vain pleasure, something so easy could hardly be harmful to their little well being's. In fact, I would like to extend some suggestions to make an anytime breakfast as healthy as any fresh chopped cobb salad. 
     ALWAYS pair fruit with your grain (unless your on some kind of food combing diet, then eat the fruit by itself). The easiest way to get fruit into my kids is to have it with breakfast foods, they just expect it now and are quite willing to eat slices of fresh or canned goodness at any waffle or french toast gig. If you can't afford the nice stuff all the time, switch back and forth. This is where the canned fruit comes in handy (those 29oz cans of peaches for $1.25 go much farther in smoothies and yogurt than $1.25 per lb. of peaches at the store!) I try to keep pure maple syrup around, but when I can't always afford it we buy some "no high fructose corn syrup" store brand and use it til we can. Or try making your own, my mother has a quick recipe of 1-1-1 that works every time (1 c. granulated sugar, 1 c. brown sugar, 1 c. water, bring to a boil and add a few drops maple syrup flavoring and whala!) 
     Between pancakes, waffles, hot cereal (you know, oatmeal, creamy wheat, that stuff you probably vaguely remember since you were a kid...or since you fed it to your baby) eggs done at least 10 different ways and cold cereal, you have a quick and easy option for ANY time of day, or meal. Our kids practically expect breakfast for dinner once a week, and we love to get them into it by peeling potatoes for hashbrownns or fried potatoes (non of which have to be fried by the way, a tablespoon of olive oil with a little butter can go very far in terms of flavor and cooking). I often keep a gluten free pancake mix around just to break things up a bit and to try eating different grains (also something they are used to as we had them on a gluten free diet for a whole year, that's another story though!) Some of our favorite pancakes have been made with pumpkin, super easy to slip into almost any recipe, just try about 1/2-3/4 c. in your favorite pancake batter with a pinch of cinnamon. It has even worked with bisquick. Here is another great one from the Vegetarian Times, a magazine I would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about veggies. You don't have to be eating like a vegetarian to get many of the benefits, they have some great articles and food preparation suggestions. This one is super yum;






Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey-Raspberry Syrup

Vegetarian Times Issue: November 1, 2008   p.83












ingredient list

Serves 6
Honey-raspberry syrup
1 lb. frozen raspberries, divided (4 cups)
½ cup honey

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
¹⁄3 cup honey
1½ cups low-fat milk
1 cup pumpkin purée or canned pumpkin
½ tsp. vanilla extract









DIRECTIONS

1. To make Honey-Raspberry Syrup: Place 3 cups frozen raspberries and 1/2 cup water in saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes, or until berries are soft. Mash in pan until smooth. Strain berry mixture through sieve into separate saucepan. (You should have 1 to 1 1/4 cups.) Stir in honey, and return mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add remaining 1 cup frozen raspberries, and cover to steam and thaw whole raspberries. Set aside.
2. To make Pumpkin Pancakes: Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in bowl.
3. Beat eggs and honey in separate bowl. Whisk in milk, pumpkin purée, and vanilla extract. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture with spatula or wooden spoon.
4. Coat nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Ladle 2/3 cup batter onto skillet for each pancake. Cook 3 minutes, or until bubbles begin to form in center of pancakes. Flip, and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until pancakes are browned on both sides. Serve warm with Honey-Raspberry Syrup.





     A quick word about grain; add variety. If you like the hot cereal and toast option, there are several gluten free or multi-grain ones by companies like Bob's Red Mill that are fabulous. Just add a little of whatever milk you have around, fresh or frozen (well partially defrosted in that case!) berries, a mild sweetner like agave, honey or maple syrup and eat with a little toast, a fresh smoothie or fruit salad. My kids go bananas for this stuff, as it is considered a "dippy" food around here with the toast and all. Cold cereal is the same, go for minimum sugar and maximum grain variety, even Corn or Rice Chex can go a long way. Add the same kind of side favorites as with your hot cereal.
     Lastly, eggs pretty much rock my socks. They are always easy to do, you can go for the cage-free if you have a little exra money, pair with some homemade banana muffins or prepare them as a frittata or omelet. One great little purchase over Christmas was a cast iron skillet. After sauteing some potatoes, green onion, spinach, and cherry tomatoes, we threw in some scrambled egg, let the stove cook it for a few minutes and the oven finish it for another yummy and easy dinner. Just add multi-grain toast and fresh squeezed orange juice, and your on your way! V8 or homemade vegetable juice is another great side option with egg dinners, and yup my kids drink that up too!


Elizabeth's Frittata


1 large potato washed and diced
1 small bunch cherry tomatoes halved or small tomato diced
1-2 stalks green onion diced
1 large handful spinach roughly chopped (more if desired!)
Any other vegg you might like (chopped mushrooms etc)
6-8 eggs beaten with a Tbsp or so of water
1-2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (stir into egg mixture)
Optional;  Add any meat you might like (or you can skip for a meatless dish, saving money too!)
Fresh basil, fresh cracked pepper, sea salt


Preheat your oven to 400^. Use a pan that is oven safe. Prepare your meat (we've used a little bacon or sausage links chopped up here before) saute the potatoes in a little olive oil and butter for about 4-6 minutes til golden. Add tomato, onion, spinach and possible other ingredients and saute for another 2 minutes or so til spinach is wilted. Add the beaten egg mixture and move around in the pan a little to begin cooking process and incorporate ingredients. You can also skip this part if you want food to stay at the bottom of the frittata. Then carefully move to a 400^ oven and cook for about 15 min (check often, til eggs are set in the middle) Remove with an oven mitt as pan will be hot and let set for another few minutes, adding torn fresh basil, fresh cracked pepper, and a pinch of sea salt to the top. You can even a side salad and really double the value of your "meat" free meal!











Monday, January 25, 2010

WARNING: Don't Try This at Home!

     SO...Gary let me down this weekend. Yup, he just may be moved to the back burner...for at least a week. I was in a particularly productive mode yesterday, not only was my little chicken in the roaster before church, but I had set my potatoes and cauliflower in a pot to boil and left them in the hot water while I was gone. Lunch was otherwise quick and easy, leftovers from the night before, and the kitchen was even clean. A-maze-ing. We get home from church about 3 hours later, (side note is that a 5.2 lb chicken cooks to absolute perfection on 250^ in that amount of time, little butter rubbed on the skin, herbs in the cavity, and all those drippings on the bottom, YUM!) and I finish preparations for the meal. Set aside the cauliflower for pureeing, bring the potatoes back to a boil, let the chicken rest before carving, and start the gravy...(again, drippings are great here, about 2 boullion cubes, 2-3 TBS cornstarch in water or the water from the potatoes for thickening, and even a little veggie base from my fridge and it was the BEST gravy ever!) Another little note that might be good to add here is that this was officially the best chicken I had ever roasted, it was juicy, plump, moist, tasty etc. AND, the gravy was pretty much perfect. Anyway, the kids were relatively quiet, low blood sugar and tired from no rest time, so it was a great time to finish things up. Then I make the dreaded mistake, I have to blame my husband for part of this though as it was HIM who added too much milk. Again, I digress. I decided the easiest way to make the mashed potatoes (also with most of the skins left on for nutrients) was to add them to the blender with the cauliflower. I wanted them really smooth right? Well this is what it turned out to be;

That's right! Mashed potato soup. The moral of this story? Never try this at home. Stick with what ya know, the good old fashioned hand mixer would have perfectly sufficed in this situation! Luckily my kids didn't seem to notice too much (after they got over the awkward, do I eat this with a spoon or fork swirling it around on their plate scenario) and my husband only reminded me once that the leftovers would probably go to better use as soup rather than the shepherd's pie I had so carefully planned.




Which brings me to another exciting note in what I would like to call "Food Creativity".....The Double Duty Meal. I am quite sure most of you have figured out that if you make extra of something, you have a meal for later. I would like to expound on that just a little by adding, purposely make extra of certain items and you are in like flint for quick and easy healthy meals. For example, extra mashed potatoes are excellent for things like, shepherd's pie, or in my case, creamy and cheesy potato veggie soup. (Shepherd's pie by the way is a dish from England that consists of a saucy and sometimes meaty bottomed veggie dish, topped with cheesy mashed potatoes and baked to casserole perfection). Extra rice from Saturday's Thai night will be perfect for what we like to call "Hawaiian Haystacks" (maybe you've heard of them, maybe you haven't) we usually just throw a quick sauce together of
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 -1 c. chicken broth (depending on how much you need and how thin you like it)
1/4-1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 can chicken or any leftover chicken in your fridge


Then we cut up tons of veggies; carrots, tomato, green onion, green/red pepper, olives, peas, spinach,  etc. We use a can of pineapple, mandarin oranges, chopped nuts (usually cashew of mixed) some shredded cheese, shredded coconut and little dry chow mein noodles or other crunchy noodles that we have around. Then load the rice, sauce on top, and any combo veggie and toppings and you have a quick and super yummy crowd pleaser, as everyone can make their own exactly like they want it.


Another easy one, is fried rice (which is of course not really fried) or a sweet rice and chicken bake, with a similar but smaller batch of the above sauce, shredded chicken from the can or fridge, shredded cheese, and any combo diced veggie mixed thouroughly and baked at 375^ anywhere from 30-45 min. We like diced squash, zucchini, corn and the like. I could go on and on about rice, it is my favorite ingredient to make extra of, as it is so versatile. While growing up, we used to have poor man's rice pudding after certain dinners by adding cold milk, sugar, and cinnamon to some leftover hot rice for dessert.
P.S. Not only is it good for dessert, but make sure you do all brown rice or an easy 3/4 brown and 1/4 white rice combo and it makes for a perfect breakfast as well, especially for any of you gluten free kids out there!
Enjoy, and here's to more good eating and less kitchen disasters!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dinner...success!

     Ok so it was nothing exciting, but is an EASY family favorite. Bean and cheese quesadillas and burritos. I love this meal because most of it is out of a can if I don't have time to make a pot of beans for the day, and the rest of it is made up of fresh chopped fillings. Between homemade guacamole, salsa, and loads of chopped olives, tomato, lettuce and cheese, you can even throw in some fresh cilantro or leftover rice and you have a completely filling meal. My youngest oddly enough will chow down on a burrito loaded with all the above, even stuffed with black beans and rice long before he would eat any of those items on his own! After throwing dinner together (I waited til the hubby came home to help with all the chopping and preparing, in fact he is not only my biggest critic but biggest help in the kitchen) I did have a couple of ideas for some recipes to include in this mornings post. Try the olive salad as a light side with grilled turkey burgers and sweet potato fries, and you're in for a real treat!


     Salsa (yes this is another Gary and me creation!)
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 fresh tomatoes (also any combo and type of tomato, we went for roma and hot house)
2-3 fresh minced cloves of garlic
about 1/3 of a white onion
2-3 handfuls fresh cilantro
about 1/4 of a small jalepeno (fresh grn pepper works and a pinch of crushed red pepper for heat if you don't have any jalepeno)
black pepper and salt (we like LOTS of black pepper, but use each to your likes)
oil (as Rachel Ray would put it, eyeball it!) we use canola, this is the trick to really good salsa or guacamole, just a little really helps the flavors to go together!
Optional; fresh squeeze of lime or lemon (LOVE the lime)
pulse ingredients til desired consistency, if no fancy blender, just chop and puree about 1/3 of the ingredients to make more of a mildly chunky salsa


Bring on the tortilla chips! (p.s. if you are out, but have some frozen corn tortillas, use a pizza cutter to slice into triangles after defrosting and bake on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet at 375^ turning once or twice for about 20 min)




     Olive Salad (great idea for leftover olives after mexican food night)


1-2 stalks celery sliced
1-2 tomatoes diced (again, which ever brand you like or is cheapest!)
2 green onions diced
1 can black olives sliced (or 1 can already diced black olives)


Mix in a bowl with pepper and salt to your liking, and or subtract a little of each ingredient depending on what you like. ALL of these ingredients are a favorite here, and while I was growing up so this is a long used Bates family salad recipe (Thanks mom!) for when you get bored of the typical green salad.

P.P.S. Tried out using agave nectar in my buttermilk pancakes this morning. Not so much luck, but I am working on them, and will keep collecting agave info to pass on in a super fab weekly ingredient low-down!

Friday, January 22, 2010

So it's about 3:45 in the afternoon...

     I have to specify afternoon because I could just be more than a little obsessive and already writing early early in the morning. Actually I am not sure why I am telling you that, because I am pretty sure that when I publish this post, it will automatically tell the whole world what time it is, *sigh*. I think my point is that not only is it after 3:30 in the afternoon, but I still haven't done ANY dishes, it has been raining for over half the day for the 6th day in a row which means we are in the house yet again. I also have absolutely no plans for dinner tonight as we have already eaten all the leftover sweet mashed potatoes from last nights dinner, and I am hardly into laundry load #2. (Not that big of a deal, but when there are still 2+ to go, that means laundry won't be done til sunday because it will drag all through the weekend as I will only do it as we NEED the clothes that were left in the washer 2 days prior, or the wet musty smell of old laundry will get to us, and I will finally decide to finish it.
     So what to do? Not only has the house gone to pot, but I have managed to run circles around vacation plans. I have finally gotten somewhere though, with a lucky call from my sister in Iraq to confirm her plans once she returns in the next few weeks. I just love vacation, even if it will be just for a few days in between moving from here to Texas. That's right, only about 5 weeks to go, and a new military adventure awaits us! We'll see how well we are able to keep up eating right on the road. I hardly think a "wilted salad with a mealy tomato wedge and ranch dressing" as old Clooney puts it in one of my fav movies (Intolerable Cruelty, and whether most of you like it or not, I think it was a gem) counts as a satisfactory requirement for a serving of vegetables. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it however.  Now, back to dinner.
     Apparently I should just stick with breakfast foods. The kids seem happy enough on cereal and milk when they get a chance to eat it. Besides the issue of what to make, they are honestly not that hungry by the time dinner comes along because I have to fend them off from the fridge every afternoon as snack time is turning more and more into a prolonged all you can eat hour long buffet. Case in point; They all just had a yogurt, and a naturally sweetened fruit roll-up. Still hungry. I gave them an option for fruit so they are fighting over 2 apples (no I did not give each one an apple, the youngest has always detested anything that required chewing let alone a peel) but suddenly with his interest in the food item and everyone's voracious hunger, I am considering stuffing them full now, and skipping dinner all together. It's overrated anyway, and maybe a light snack instead this evening will be a success. We actually tried that early this week when we were rained in on MLK day and decided to turn the living room into an outdoor camping experience. Now my creativity is tapped. It is Friday after all.
     Perhaps a homemade veggie pizza. We pull off a great one with homemade ranch sauce and believe it or not sliced zucchini and squash, and when we eat it regularly enough they actually will leave the veggies mostly un-picked. Or maybe a delicious eggplant bake. Yeah that one works too if we tell them the eggplant is like meat. It may or may not be thai food night, with green coconut curry, pad thai and homemade lumpia. Sounds a little too adventurous for my lack of productivity today though. Well, I just heard the buzzer on the dryer, and if I wrap this up and send them outside to jump in mud puddles and catch up on a little lost vitamin D for the week, perhaps I will be up for something extra-ordinary this Friday night. Maybe even a few finalized vacation purchases. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Picky Eater

     And so the predictable evening tragicomedy ensues...you bustle and bake, hustle and present a positively perfect if not a-typical family style meal complete with steamed vegg and your grandmother's zesty bean casserole to a table of famished and otherwise starving folk. As you have returned to the kitchen yet again for some seemingly obtuse but very necessary commodity (after all, Billy Joe likes ketchup, while Susie only likes ranch, and you know the hubs may have a moment himself if there is not butter for the rolls, as if they weren't buttery enough) to hear the same sound you've heard for the last, what 3, 5, 8 years..."mom what is this?" or "I don't like beans" or "why can't we just have like pizza or something?" *Sigh* Another one bites the dust (or maybe that is just at my house!)
     Sound a little familiar? Well don't give up hope. Yup, that's all I've got for ya.
     Seriously though, I have been on the roller-coaster. Without giving up to much of my life story (I have to save SOME anecdotes for later!) my now almost 5 year old struggled with spontaneously spewing his food at the dinner table. No, not any other meal, (which led me to believe it was all in his head) but dinner. After a reassuring ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Dr. visit at the age of 3ish we discovered some seriously abnormal tonsils that were not in any way contributing to his food texture sensitivities. Before this, I had run circles in preparing food in anyway to get the kid to eat it. If it wasn't cereal and milk, or yogurt, or cheese, he gagged. SO, I have a few suggestions, nay life credo's to which we run our kitchen these days.
     1. If you can hide it, then do it;      Who says they have to like summer squash at the age independent and self sufficient age of 2 1/2? Puree it whole and stick it in the mild green enchilada sauce you just concocted that will soon smother some poor soggy flour tortilla and then be encased in cheddar cheese. He Will Never Know.
     2. You must taste everything;     I gave up on them liking half of what I cook, it doesn't mean I am going to let MY food likes go out the window. It wasn't easy and there is something to be said for that whole, "You must offer the food about 10 times"  before expecting anything mentality. I think we are on at least 365 with green salads, and I am happy to say they eat 2 spinach leaves smothered in whole milk fatty ranch with 1-2 carrot sticks without so much as a complaint. Hey, they need the fat for their growing brains and bodies right? On a serious note, although vegg is still not a favorite, they will eat all different types of food now. For example, we get away with a Thai food night almost weekly. And "sushi" is believe it or not a true love since we moved to california and they thought that anything pink and uncooked with a huge slathering of soy sauce meant it was something to be enjoyed. This brings me to rule number 3
     3. A spoonful of sugar really DOES make the medicine go down;     That is, sugar, sauce, "dippy" or practically anything that you can completely squelch the taste of an undesirable food item in to make it more appealing. And if they can do it themselves, happy day (my 3rd is now 2 1/2 and refuses just about anything he can't swirl in ketchup or ranch. BUT he does it himself, tries everything, and I hold firm to the belief that he Will Someday Like It!)
     4. Anything they help to prepare is a definite Yum;     Even if it is just mixing the batter around by pulling the lever on my other favorite kitchen appliance, the appropriately named "Kitchen Aide". We have won many a food battle by playing up the "you helped to make this" mentality, and it works. It also accomplishes that need to feel like there are capable of something, you too find something to do with them  during such a fractious time of day (dinner at our house is anyway) and it allows me to hang on the perception that my boys WILL be self-reliant when they get older. Not only will they open doors, but make toast, AND homemade chicken alfredo con broccoli. And last but not least...
     5. Consistently make dinner fun;     I add the consistent because you have to keep doing the things that work for your sanity, and your kids health. Maybe not everyone out there is as worried about picky eaters as we are, but since my husband and I Really like food, and all kinds of it this is very important to us. We try to make dinner a time when we all get to talk and share our day/stories etc. (In fact the rule at our house is no talking UNLESS you're eating, that way we can save time!) If I change the food up just enough to keep them trying new things, but consistently give them the staples (vegg juice and raw vegg trays, homemade fruit smoothies and as pure and natural as I can get in the snack department food items) than I have succeeded. And when we are out and about over the weekend and the urge to hit In-N-Out Burger, or a really yummy ice cream spot gets us, we can go and know that the next meal will be full of freshly steamed veggies, sides of fruit salad, and staples of lively dinner conversation.

For any of you looking for further ideas or good reads, try Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious"
or my personal favorite and current health food bible, "You Are What You Eat Cookbook" by Dr Gillian McKeith. Both are available @amazon.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ode to a Blender

Although our relationship is still in it's infancy, I feel that it is time to take things to the next level with a tribute to my newest love in kitchen appliances. My Blender.
Oh no, this is not just any utilitarian romance sweetened by the pungent smell of morning smoothie bliss, this is an everlasting love that binds much more to a hungry belly than a simple frappe or sauce mixture. Ever heard of the Vita-Mix? Well this puppy I would venture to say puts it to shame! Just my opinion of course. Between price (majorly cost effective) and little things like proper "counter to cupboard height" "no gears or belts" and "easy to clean" (yeah I bought into the entire sales pitch gimmick) this Blendtec Total Blender has become a new and fast favorite in our house.
Little does my husband know how often we meet for private interludes as well, especially since ice cream is a favorite of mine and well, let's just say Gary can do it in 45 seconds. (Try the included strawberry ice cream recipe, even frozen strawberries bring frozen bliss to a new level)
Included you will find a photo of Gary. If any of you have one already, enjoy the most recent family recipe favorite. Otherwise, see the revision at the bottom for easy regular blender and home preparation. Hey, if my kids scarf almost an entire serving in one sitting, there must be something good about it! Note that the apples are only cored, leaving peels intact AND that the sauce is cooked minimally, leaving you with enzyme rich and fiber soluble applesauce.
P.S. When warm and freshly made with a pinch of cinnamon this is no lies like eating a dessert, you can even fool your sweet tooth in to thinking you just cheated your calorie intake for the day!

Applesauce
                                         2 large apples of choice (most recent fav's included any combo granny smith, fuji, honey crisp, golden delicious)
                                         Pinch Cinnamon if desired
                                         1/4 c. natural apple juice (approximate, water works fine too)
                                         Pinch natural sweetner if desired (current fav. is agave)


Core the apples and cut into 1/8's (those corer slicers work fabulous for this part)
Put all ingredients into blender, close lid and use the soup function (this works the best because it helps to break down all the peel and apple itself leaving the applesauce "cooked" but not cleaned out of nutrients.
                                         Options; use a vitamix, or steamer first then regular blender later (just might take a little more blender work) OR add different fruit/veggie combos for new flavors. More personal favorites are to add 1 carrot to the apple mix OR sub out a nice Bartlett or D'anjou Pear for one of the apples, super Yum!
                                         Enjoy!
     P.P.S. Here is the website incase any of you want to research a little more on the blender, there will be more suggestions and recipes for Gary to come! http://www.blendtec.com



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Insanity is Not Just a State of Mind...

...It’s also a definition. And according to Miriam Webster, it is considered extreme folly or unreasonableness b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable. For me, that would be blogging. Why? Because I have refused for so long to write daily, weekly or even monthly for that matter about anything related to my life. Not only would it be cliche but time consuming and at best slightly depressing when I realize that I am really not much of a writer and that no one would want to read it.

For years my mother (thanks a lot mom!) has told me to write my stories down, but keeping a diary is for sissy girls in 5th grade with poofy pink skirts and pig tails that you find of in the corner of some playground somewhere swapping notebooks and still giggling about Timmy Sutherland’s new haircut and his flashy smile at Deeana earlier that morning (p.s. I may or may not have been one of them). Not busy moms who have just a teency weency obsession with food. No not just any food, the good kind; good tasting AND good for you. I realized this week just how bad it has gotten when I went to the grocery store one evening after dinner to “escape” my flu-ridden children. After my 45 min of (quiet) food shopping bliss, I decided to continue my escapade with a trip the the vitamin store where I proceeded to spend not only the same amount of time, but money in procuring 4 measly supplements for my morning smoothie. And you better believe it was worth it (no my husband does not realize how much it cost yet!)
So whats a girl/mom to do? I could keep ignoring the promptings and pretend like food is merely a necessary evil to be choked down after it has been poached, fried, baked, or smothered to death (so what if my friends dutifully laugh at a few jokes and re-told comical moments from my super charged life. So what if the fact that I really do want to learn how to make my own goat’s milk one day...from my own goat really could present a “funny” set of self reliant circumstances. So what if mom thinks my posterity might like to hear a thing or two about my life, told in my own voice).
Then it hit me, I have been writing my blog entries for months now, if not years! Because of my quest for tasty dishes and thrifty yet relatively easy ways to accomplish healthful cooking, I have been through diets, supplements, nutrition concepts and back. AND, my genuine giving nature truly wants to impart my knowledge/learning/experimenting on to the rest of the world, so without further ado and perhaps a healthy dose of temporary insanity, I present the Chronicles of Food Mania; cooking healthy for a family of 5 on a reasonable budget.

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