Monday, November 30, 2009

Back in the Blogging Saddle Again

Thanksgiving is just past us, and I'm going to try this blogging thing again.

Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about food. After all, food is one of the three "F's" of Thanksgiving: food, football, and family. This year, I managed to get 2 of the 3 F's and am still lamenting the lack of football.

We spent Thanksgiving dinner with our cousins. There were many of what I call the traditional fixings as well as some unique ones. Turkey - yum. Cranberry sauce - two kinds and yum. Vegetables galore - mixed veggies, creamed onions, sweet potato yumminess, winter squash casserole. Stuffing - two kinds and more yum. Salad with homemade dressing - yum (and I'm not a salad fan!). For dessert, there were chocolates, cookies, 2 kinds of pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry-walnut bread, and pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Lots more yum.

This year's Thanksgiving included a kids' table! Much happiness from this addition. I feared that Caleb would not eat, but he just chose to eat mostly the raw veggies on the kid table instead of the food I brought him from the main spread. And by mostly raw veggies, I mean he chomped happily on bell peppers, carrots, and celery in rather obscenely large quantities. As Aaron tells me, you do not complain when your kid eats vegetables. He did munch a bit on his plate of traditional fixings, and he apparently likes the winter squash casserole I make. Ellie also noshed on a variety of the foods, but her favorite was the cranberry sauce - actually the canned stuff to be more precise. I was delighted to find an organic canned cranberry jelly this year since I refuse to buy the kind with high fructose corn syrup yet I need cranberry jelly for it to feel like Thanksgiving.

I've thought a bit about how my kids ate this weekend because holidays are often times when we all eat less healthfully than we might otherwise choose. My kids had more dessert options available, but I don't feel like they overindulged. Caleb asked for a second cookie at Thanksgiving dessert. When I saw he was talking about a 1-2 inch cookie, I agreed. He didn't ask for any more cookies. He ate a bit of pumpkin bread about an hour later. Besides the Thanksgiving desserts, I also made a sinfully delicious chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate glaze. We all enjoyed it immensely on Saturday, and my kids strangely have not been begging for it since.

I wonder how my kids manage to regulate themselves or not crave the sweet stuff like I do. Certainly they don't eat it as much as I do. I've been thinking that I would be much healthier (and weigh a lot less) if I ate like my kids do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food Inventory

Since I got rather stuck in my menu planning (see previous post!), I decided to think about the foods which need to get used this week. I'm taking inventory to see what comes of it.
  • Squash: several delicata squash, 3 butternut squash (though one should go to my neighbor), 2 zucchini, 1 spaghetti squash, 1 carnival squash, and 1 unknown (looks like delicata but with orange stripes instead of green).
  • Red bell peppers (a few), 1 small purple bell pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • Lots of pumpkin puree
  • Lots of apples
OK, so squash = roasting and soup and bread. Not sure about the spaghetti squash as my memory of spaghetti squash is mixed. Bell peppers = enchiladas, chili, or scrambled eggs/quiche. Carrots = soup, salad, snacks. I find carrots to be uninspired. I should try to change my opinion of them. As for the pumpkin, maybe that should be my soup this week? And apples, yes we still have apples after all this time. I must figure out apple oatmeal cookies and probably will end up making more applesauce in addition to apple bread. Ooh... I wonder whether I can remember how I made apple zucchini raisin nut bread. That was tasty.

At least now I have some more ideas. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts about menu planning or those foods that you bought because "this will be great" and then you don't know what to do with them.

We need a menu here!

Shopping day came and went. I didn't have a menu for the week. The weekend came and went. I didn't make a menu for the week.

What are we going to feed the kids (and supposedly ourselves)?

Tuesday November 3
Oven chicken fingers made with panko breadcrumbs.
Sides: roasted delicata squash, applesauce

Wednesday November 4
NO IDEA - I'm out that night working. Aaron might do something with pasta or leftovers.

Thursday November 5
Aaron and I like to have pizza night after the kids go to bed. Still, what to feed the kids. I vote for pasta or even something ready to eat from Trader Joe's because it's quick and easy. Sides might include green peas or beans.

Friday November 6
Fish, green veggie, more squash, brown rice, challah. This is our traditional Friday night dinner. Last week I made our challah rather than using the very yummy store-bought. I *might* try again for a better texture and shape.

Saturday November 7
I really want something that screams fall, regardless of temperature. Soup comes to mind. Soup with yummy bread.

Sunday November 8
I teach in the morning and do teaching prep after that. Cooking dinner is hard on Sundays. I'll have to think this one over some more.

Monday November 9
Classic macaroni and cheese WITH vegetables. I think I'll use this as my starting point.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Bread is hmm hmm good

Campbell's, I claim your slogan fits the pumpkin bread I made much better than your soups.

I have more pumpkin puree than I know what to do with, much like the apple situation around here. I made 2 loaves of pumpkin bread, thinking that I wasn't a huge fan but I needed to make something with the goo besides the cookies Caleb and I made.


This bread is amazing. I added a 12-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the recipe. I used 2 cups of sugar instead of 3. I used 2 9x5 pans instead of 3 7x3 pans. Words cannot express my full enjoyment of this bread. Just make this bread. You will NOT regret it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dinner Success!

Tonight's dinner was definitely a success on a few fronts.

First and foremost, it was ready by the time Aaron walked in the door! I also managed to do some clean up from it before he arrived at 6pm. That dinner was ready to be served before he came home is truly a miracle as both kids were home today. Caleb was under the weather, clingy and needy. Ellie was your typical 17 month old - alternating between completely content and "I NEED YOU NOW!" Entirely too much television was watched today, but we made it through the day and a yummy healthy dinner was produced along the way.

Second, I managed to use up half of a very large butternut squash and the remainder of our swiss chard (rainbow chard). I made crustless swiss chard quiche and classic butternut squash soup. I served leftover buttermilk biscuits because I'm not so very motivated to bake bread when I'm dealing with sick kid + 17 month old + my own doctor appointment AND the downstairs is chilly because the *@!# thermostat has a low battery again after we changed the batteries within the last month.

Third, everyone enjoyed it and ate most of it. Aaron thanked me for making dinner. Caleb thanked me for making yummy dinner. Ellie ate and did not throw food. Yes, there are leftovers, but that is a good thing since I am out tomorrow night and Aaron will need to figure out dinner.

My next task - figure out what else to make with all of my squash, including lots and lots of pumpkin puree.

Sick kid(s) = Menu changes?

I'm trying to decide whether making a soup today will work out. Caleb is sick and needing my attention. I didn't get a soup started in the morning as a result. Plus I had a doctor's appointment in the late morning, so the time has gotten away from me. On the bright side, I have finished my teaching prep for tomorrow (am terribly behind on other prep), so perhaps I *can* make soup.

Of course, Ellie is choosing to vocalize instead of sleep. I don't mean talk. I don't mean cry/fuss. I mean vocalize. High pitch swooping down to low pitch. Over and over and over.

And Caleb isn't really sleeping. I can hear him coughing.

So can I whip up a squash soup on a gray cool day? Magic Eight Ball says "Signs point to yes." Hmph. We'll see about this.

What to feed sick kid(s)

Caleb is sick with a cold or something like that. Fever, runny nose, some coughing, a bit irritable (though that may be normal). He also has less appetite and is a bit pickier than usual. Well usually he isn't all that picky. Huh, food. I eat. So what does one feed a sick kid to nurse him back to sleep?

Nurse. Hmm... those were the days with him. Back when he was nursing, I would have offered him more nursing opportunities. I swear nursing is why Ellie isn't sick yet - or at least seems healthier. Caleb weaned a little over a year and a half ago, so that's not an option.

Soup. He ate a bunch of pea soup last night. Today - not so much. :( I suppose I should learn to make a decent chicken noodle soup.

Other fluids. I gave him apple cider this morning. He happily downed it. I'm pushing the water, telling him that he needs to drink so that he can be healthy enough for gymnastics tomorrow. I've tried seltzer which he always asks for and supposedly likes. No dice there either. Applesauce is almost a fluid, but he didn't touch it at lunch. :(

I seem to recall that I'm supposed to starve a fever, and he does have a mild fever. Maybe sleep, water, and cider will be enough.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Menu - Oct. 23-Oct.29

Here is my first attempt at this week's menu.

Friday Oct. 23
Fish - variety depends on availability, likely salmon, maybe tilapia or trout
Broccoli or brussel sprouts - steamed

Saturday Oct. 24
We have a dinner hour birthday party full of potential sweets. I think a Crock-Pot meal is in order. Split pea soup is striking my fancy and delegates cooking to Aaron. I'll bake a loaf of 5 minute artisan bread. If there is leftover quiche from Thursday, it would go well with both.

Sunday Oct. 25
I'm out all day teaching, but Aaron can set out chicken in the morning to thaw. Perhaps he will make fried chicken since it also makes good leftovers. Sides will be green beans, maybe corn from freezer?

Monday Oct. 26
Time to make use of the eggplant on my counter before it gets squishy. Cheesy eggplant casserole, bread from Saturday.

Tuesday Oct. 27
Do something with squash!
I need to make sure there isn't summer squash in my refrigerator. If we have summer squash, then summer squash casserole it is. If we only have winter squash AND the pea soup is mostly to all gone, I may try another butternut squash soup - a less sweet one. If we still have plenty of soup, then I may just roast up the squash to go with leftover chicken.

Wednesday Oct. 28
Ball in Aaron's court as I will be teaching at dinner hour. I see pasta in the kids' future.

Thursday Oct. 29
Homemade pizza. Dough either from 5-minute bread OR Trader Joe's whole wheat.

We're missing a night with beans other than green beans with the chicken. I wonder if I can revamp it to include some other types of beans.

Lunches are nearly always leftovers of some dinner, PB&J, or Annie's mac n cheese. Breakfasts are oatmeal, fruit, and sometimes a quick bread. On weekends we do eggs, pancakes, turkey sausage/bacon (not all at once necessarily).

Now I just need to make time to process those apples!!

Meal Planning Without the CSA

I miss our CSA.

When we picked up most of our produce on Mondays, I could plan the week of food based on whatever was in the box. I didn't have to think about vegetables. Meals practically made themselves, once I got into the groove of figuring out what to do with all those vegetables.

And now?

No more weekly pick ups. How sad for us. I'm thankful to have our weekly local farmers' market. BUT... I actually have to plan meals before going to the market now. It's like I've forgotten how to decide what I want to eat since I got used to being told "here are your vegetables for the week." Well, I could eat chocolate morning, noon, and night, but that isn't exactly the healthiest option. ;)

I keep passing the list of "possible meals" we have posted on our refrigerator and feeling rather uninspired and as though the meals are not quite good enough. Not balanced enough, not flavorful enough, not interesting enough. It's rather frustrating since I KNOW we all like those meals.

So what are we going to feed the kids tonight? It's supposed to be pizza night for me and Aaron after the kids go to bed, but I'm craving vegetables oddly. In the vegetable category, we have a large bunch of beautiful swiss chard waiting to be enjoyed. I'm thinking about making Crustless Swiss Chard Quiche because we haven't had it in quite a while, and I remember LOVING it. Besides swiss chard, we have plenty of squash, including pumpkins that I promised to share with Caleb. Caleb wants to make pumpkin cookies from a recipe he saw in a book by Jane Breskin Zalben called "Don't Go!" Maybe they will be nut-free and I can send them to school with him!

This post is dreadfully rambly, but I think it reflects how I'm feeling about meal planning without my CSA pickups. Perhaps I need to return to the habit of meal planning once a week, and I can post those weekly menus as a reminder.

Winter Squash to Preschool

On Tuesday, one of Caleb's teachers asked me if I would bring to school some of the "gourds" I mentioned on my last visit. She wanted to have the kids check out the seeds and see the variety and so forth. She said they are talking about crops and farming. Basic sensory experience, as far as I could tell. We have a large bowl overflowing with "gourds," so I was happy to oblige.

By gourds, she really meant winter squash. Before I started to cook more from scratch, I didn't understand what people meant by winter squash versus summer squash. I definitely didn't realize I could eat most of what I saw as decorations, let alone know HOW to prepare winter squash. When we started going to the farmers' market, Caleb inevitably would pick up something that neither Aaron nor I recognized and beg to buy it. We would ask sheepishly what the thing was and how to prepare and eat it. The answer was usually to cut it in half, add olive oil or butter, salt and pepper, and roast until done (tender, soft, edible).

The first winter squash Caleb introduced us to was delicata squash. The link takes you to a beautiful food, garden and cooking blog. Delicata squash is the shape of a fat cucumber, light yellow in color with green stripes. The interior is a yellow or light orange usually. It is a sweet and tender squash. It makes a delightful side dish to any number of meals.

This year we received many kinds of winter squash from our CSA: butternut, acorn, sunshine (looks like a smooth slightly darker orange pumpkin), carnival, sweet dumpling (looks like a delicata squash in color but is round), and at least a few that I don't know the names of yet.

The next winter squash Caleb introduced us to was blue hubbard squash. It is NOT a pretty squash, in my opinion. Big, bluish-gray, bumpy. It is delicious, once you crack it open. The microwave is fantastic for softening up winter squash skin.

And so this morning I picked 4 different squash - butternut, delicata, carnival, and sweet dumpling - and gave the teacher instructions for how to prepare them:

"Microwave them for a few minutes to soften the skin. Cut them in half. Add butter or olive oil. Salt and pepper OR brown sugar. Roast until done."

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fruit and Cheese Defeat the Blueberry Muffin!!

You read it here first. My 3.5 year old son chose a fruit and cheese plate from Starbucks over a blueberry muffin. I would have picked a muffin for myself, and I had offered him a muffin as soon as we walked in. He saw the strategically placed fruit and cheese plate and asked if he could have that instead. It cost twice as much, so I wanted to make sure he really wanted it. I held it up to the muffin, and he still chose the fruit plate. I told him he would need to share with Ellie - surely a dealbreaker - and he still wanted the fruit plate, with apple juice.

Totally fine by me.

The kids ate very happily. Ellie rejected a piece of cheddar cheese, wanted more grapes when there were no more to be had, but happily chomped down on brie. Yes, my nearly 17 month old daughter chose to eat brie. I showed her the remnants of the divided fruit and cheese plate, and she picked the brie over the apple slice. I cannot stand brie unless it is cooked into some fancy appetizer (think puff pastry with fruit and cheese gooey goodness). Yet she took a small first bite and then ate half of the wedge!

Again, totally fine by me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tips for Cooking with Toddlers/Preschoolers

Earlier I wrote about how important it is to involve kids in meal preparations. Yet it is not easy. Cooking with young kids can take significantly longer than if we adults just do it ourselves. It isn't easy to convince older kids to cook with us instead of doing whatever is more enjoyable to them (I can only guess since my kids are young and I only teach older kids). And let's be real: it isn't practicable to cook together every day of the week.

Since I only have experience cooking with toddlers and preschoolers, I thought I'd write about what has worked for me and Caleb. Maybe it will give you some ideas you'd like to share with me!

1) Start simple and with something familiar.
Caleb started helping in the kitchen by washing vegetables. The first thing he helped to cook was probably instant oatmeal. We soon moved to brownie mixes, and he helped to stir by holding the top of a large spoon while he gripped it lower on the handle.

2) Make cooking steps accessible.
That is, can your kid reach the counter somehow? We use either a folding step stool or one of our kitchen chairs. When Caleb made his own oatmeal, he didn't know how much water to add. We set out a measuring cup for him. When that cup wasn't available, we gave him the next smaller size and explained to use it twice. See? Math skills! :) But my real point here is to find ways to make cooking possible, doable for your kid.

3) Let them taste ingredients.
If you think an ingredient will hurt your kid, should you be using it? Other than really hot peppers, Caleb has tried everything from flour, sugar and salt to raw onions. I let him taste different herbs and spices too. Here Caleb is at about a year old, sampling an onion.

I'm sort of hoping his experimentation will help him develop an intuition about food which I lack somewhat.

4) Take the time to answer and ask questions.
Ask your child(ren) what they think something is for. Answer their questions with both answers and questions. I believe it is through this dialogue that we connect with our children. This dialogue validates their curiosity so that they will want to learn and do more.

5) Make it FUN!
For Caleb, this meant being able to use my electric cooking tools like the hand mixer or pushing the buttons on the food processor. For Ellie, this means looking at a pot of boiling pasta and telling me it's hot or that it's PAAASSTAAAA. For both of my kids, it means getting samples of the ingredients and getting to try the final product. You need to figure out what makes it fun for your kids. Maybe your kids want to pick what you cook. Maybe your kids like to gather ingredients or clean up after (Caleb enjoys cleaning the counters - weird.). Figure it out and use it to your advantage to make wonderful cooking memories.

Cooking with Preschool

Last Thursday I volunteered in Caleb's preschool classroom. The teachers asked all families to send in recipes of their kids' favorite snacks and to volunteer for 30 minutes to cook with the kids. Being indecisive, I sent in 2 recipes: applesauce and zucchini bread. My volunteer date eventually arrived, and I packed up all the stuff I thought the school wouldn't have (food processor, zucchini, raisins, loaf pans).

I had SO much fun watching the kids mix and pour. I had SO much fun sharing the zucchini with the kids. I brought an extra one so the kids could pass it around. Zucchini make excellent horns, by the way, and acting like they are horns gets a lot of 3-4 year old giggles. I managed not to scare any of the kiddies with the food processor by giving them warning that it makes a lot of noise. And apparently the kids liked the bread just fine, though Caleb said some of the kids thought it was strange. I guess Caleb and I are going to have to get used to people thinking I'm strange. :)

When I entered Caleb's classroom, one of his teachers helped me find a place for my bag of tricks. She then told me that Caleb has the healthiest lunches she has ever seen in the school and that he eats really well. She told me he doesn't throw food and that he rarely needs reminders to finish eating or to clean up when he is done. I just beamed. I can't take full credit as Caleb is his own individual and makes his own choices, but I'm super glad that he is making choices that we wanted and encouraged him to make. I'm also delighted that the lunches I've been sending have been noticed.

OK, so self-congratulatory comments aside, I also found it interesting to watch how the kids responded to a cooking project. Some of the kids were fascinated and were begging for turns at this or that. Other kids wander to and from the table. I figured this was normal preschool behavior until another teacher said "You can always tell which kids cook at home." I asked her to explain even though I knew what she meant. The kids who cook at home or see cooking at home stayed at the table. The kids who aren't involved in food preparation at home wandered. I thought about that on my way home.

Why do some people cook with their kids while others do not? When do I choose to include Caleb and when do I ask or tell him to find something else to do?

Cooking with kids takes time and patience. Most people are lacking one of those two requirements. I don't have a lot of patience, and sometimes I don't have much time. Yet I like cooking with Caleb. It does take longer. It can be messier. It is rarely peaceful, and I like to cook as almost a spiritual or meditative experience. I like cooking with Caleb because I want him to know how food is made. I want him to know how to provide good real food for himself and others. Yes, I know that cooking can teach lots of other skills - math, science, the value of family traditions. I want Caleb to know that food doesn't always come from a box or the freezer to the microwave.

I'm not sure why I want Caleb to know this. I know I am passing on to him something that Aaron and I enjoy doing. I know I am passing along recipes and "techniques" that work for us. I guess I want Caleb to have a healthy relationship with food. And yes, I do believe we have a relationship to food. I think that we can develop a healthy relationship to food by knowing where it comes from, how it is prepared, and how our bodies and minds use it. Participating in our CSA, going to the farmers' market, and shopping together shows Caleb where our food comes from. Cooking with Caleb and talking about how we made things shows him how raw ingredients become the foods he enjoys. And as we eat the foods we make together, we can talk about what we like doing so that we can focus on how food gives us the energy to enjoy life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on Kid Breakfasts

As I was scrambling around this morning in the kitchen, I realized that I have a very hard time figuring out breakfasts that are quick, healthy, and enjoyed by my kids. For my own benefit, though I suppose this may help someone else, I wanted to document what I currently offer the kids for breakfast as well as what I would like to offer them.

Offered Now
Instant organic oatmeal
Cereal with or without milk
Scrambled eggs
Bagels, muffins - various toppings like peanut butter, jam, cheese
Pancakes, waffles (when Aaron cooks)
Turkey bacon/sausage (when Aaron cooks)

Would Like to Offer
Oatmeal from oats rather than from microwave. Maybe in the Crock-Pot??
Convince them that eggs with "stuff" like vegetables and cheese are good
More well-rounded muffins. How do people get protein with these?
Smoothies. I think I could incorporate (read: sneak) really healthy stuff in them.
Fruit salad

Overall, I want to move to less processed foods, more cooked from scratch foods. I also want to try to offer a breakfast with a reasonable balance of protein, vegetable and grains. I feel like their breakfasts are very grain/carb heavy, and I think they would feel more satisfied with a more well-rounded breakfast.

What do you feed your kids for breakfast?

Apples, apples, apples

As a result of our trip to Stillman's Farm in New Braintree on Monday, we have apples. I don't mean that we picked a peck of apples. I mean we have APPLES. We have 2 large reusable grocery bags of apples, probably about a bushel all told. Let's not forget we had about 7 apples leftover from our last apple picking outing AND another small bag (8-12 small apples) from our last CSA pickup. The challenge with apples is to get through them before they become compost.

I'm already feeling a bit like Bubba from Forrest Gump (the line is close to the end of the clip) - apple crisp, apple bread, apple pie, applesauce, apple dumplings, apple cobbler, apple jam, apple butter, apple pancake... OK, I haven't made all of those things yet, but I see it in my future. We already have about 12 quarts of applesauce frozen. More is forthcoming because those 7 leftover apples aren't good for much else. I'm sure I have 1-2 loaves of apple bread in the chest freezer.

Now I have this bushel of apples to get through before I have a big ol' pile of compost and fruit flies on my kitchen counter. Every day I see the two bags sitting on the counter, reminding me that I need to eat, bake, cook, and otherwise consume these apples. Apples, like all real food, have a limited shelf life. I need a plan. Right now I'm approaching the apples rather haphazardly, hoping to use them up and enjoy them at the same time. I want a plan that focuses on enjoying the apples first. I want a plan that maximizes the apple experience. It's too easy to take 20+ apples and make 2+ quarts of applesauce. Apple crisp also uses a fair amount of apples, but it isn't the easiest to store long term. Apple bread only requires 1 cup (approx. 1 apple) per loaf.

Today I made 2 dozen apple muffins because I think I can freeze them for breakfasts and snacks in the winter. I think I'm going to have to see how I can incorporate apples into meals and not just into snacks or desserts. If anyone is reading this and happens to have favorite apple recipes, do send them along. I'm off to AllRecipes and RecipeZaar to see what I can find!

Monday, October 12, 2009

CSA Farm Visit!!

I am SO excited about what we did as a family yesterday! We visited our CSA farm, Stillman's Farm, in New Braintree, MA. Last Monday was our last CSA box pickup, and the farmers had extended invitations to all members to visit the farm. We *finally* got around to it today, and I'm so glad we did.

To get there from our house took about an hour and change, mostly highway miles with some state highways as well. Like driving in the Boston metro area, there is no straight way to get anywhere else in Massachusetts either. Once we were off of the Mass Pike (I-90 for the non-Massachusetts residents), we were surrounded by beautiful country hills, fall foliage, and all that New England imagery you see in movies when the characters have nice vacation homes in the country.

I fell in love when we pulled up to the farmers' home. The Stillmans live in a picturesque white colonial farmhouse with lots of add-ons from a rich history. The house sits at the top of a small hill from which you can see some of the fields. Immediately surrounding the house are beautifully maintained gardens and very old wise trees, gnarly and full of character. I felt such peace and a sense of home and warmth just standing there breathing it all.

Genevieve greeted us, gave us some ideas of where to look around, what produce would be good for picking, and perhaps most important - a map. We started at the raspberry fields - rows and rows of raspberry bushes with bright red berries just asking to be picked and enjoyed. Caleb and Ellie had a fantastic time picking the berries. They probably ate about a pound of them as Aaron and I picked some for home. The berries weighed themselves down and began to squish each other, so we reluctantly moved a few rows over to the apple orchard. The apples actually glistened on the trees. We picked about a bushel and a half of Empire and Cortland apples before returning to the car to lighten our load a bit.

On our way back to the car, we met up with Glenn (Genevieve's husband) who answered our many questions and pointed us to the best places for broccoli, squash, and tomatoes. Aaron also asked about potatoes, and we learned about the flooding problems which reduced their potato crop this year. Glenn also expressed surprise and congratulations that we managed to grow about a dozen tomatoes in our backyard. I was honored and touched to get a compliment from an actual farmer.

Glenn also mentioned that they had some pigs we could visit on our way to the vegetable fields. I don't think I've ever seen such happy pigs ever, and my uncle raised pigs for many years. My uncle was kind to the pigs, but I don't remember seeing the pigs look joyful, and the Stillman pigs had a twinkle in their eyes. The kids enjoyed meeting the pigs as well as the other animals (chickens and 2 border collies), but we had serious vegetable picking ahead.

To get to the broccoli fields, we passed by more kale than I've ever seen in my life. Not only was there a ton of kale, but there were several varieties too. We also passed many rows of brussel sprouts. Aaron thought it was interesting to see the similarities between kale and brussel sprout leaves as well as similarities between those and broccoli. We snapped off several bunches of broccoli, went back for some brussel sprouts, and decided we would finish up with tomatoes and squash.

The Stillmans and their crew had picked all of the tomatoes the night before due to frost. They had sorted the tomatoes into large boxes in a gigantic greenhouse. I think most grocery stores could fit at least half to 2/3 of their produce section in this greenhouse. We chose a few nice tomatoes, explained a bit about greenhouses to Caleb, and returned to the barn where we earlier had seen a true cornucopia of squash. From the squash harvest, we picked up several delicata squash (a favorite here), a few butternut squash, and 1 or 2 squash we didn't know by name.

When Aaron and I talked about visiting the farm, we guessed we would spend about an hour there. By the end of our visit, we had spent 2.5 hours there and didn't feel at all ready to leave. We thanked the Stillmans again for sharing their home and work with us. We promised to share recipes and return next season.

If only next season weren't so far away...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mother-Son Opposites

Aaron and I have noticed a trend in Caleb's eating. He likes nearly every food that I don't like. I like most foods, but I strongly dislike the few I don't like. About once a year, I try these disliked foods, hoping my palate has changed. So far no dice. Maybe you're curious about these foods I don't like? Here's the list:
  • Olives (yet I like capers and cook with olive oil)
  • Tomatoes, uncooked (cooked/processed is fine)
  • Melons (I actually gag when I try them, and I *want* to like melon)
  • Peanuts and cashews (I tolerate cashews a bit more, and I love peanut butter)
Besides those foods, I also generally do not like fruit WITH chocolate. I don't like chocolate-covered fruits (yes, including strawberries and cherries). I don't like chocolate candies that have fruit in them. Oddly I do like raspberry filling with chocolate cake.

We all have some variation of these quirks. Aaron, for example, does not like sweet potatoes ("neither sweet nor potato," he says). My son has few food quirks - doesn't like crust on his sandwiches (normal preschool thing, I think), not a big fan of cooked greens (e.g., kale), hasn't liked ice cream until very recently and I still don't believe him.

But guess what? He does like every single food I don't like. His lunch today was sliced turkey, an entire sliced tomato, and some applesauce. He finished the tomato and didn't have room to finish the applesauce. When we had salad a few weeks ago, he whined for olives the entire meal. He looks at me like I'm nuts when I say no thank you to his offer to share any kind of melon. He also offered me peanuts during a football game and did NOT want to take no for an answer.

Funny kid. I wonder whether his tastes are genuinely his or whether he just wants to push my food buttons. :)

October 10?!?

How did it get to be the second week of October?

Anyway, food continues to be delicious, but we have reached a new challenge. This past Monday was our final CSA pickup. :( Granted, we got more food than we can go through even in two weeks, but what will we do for fresh local conscientiously grown food after that? *sigh*

For the record, here is what we received in our final CSA pickup of the season:

Half of the full share:
1 HUGE butternut squash
1 carnival squash
1 delicata squash
1 stalk of brussels sprouts
1 yellow/gold cauliflower
3 ears corn
1 bunch arugula
1 head lettuce
1 bunch kale
1 savoy cabbage
1 napa cabbage (it's quite large)
1 large eggplant (white)
1 HUGE green pepper (I've dubbed it Darth Pepper)
a bag full of various hot peppers
a bag of apples (maybe about 8-10 small-medium?)
1 pear (I gave my neighbor the other 2 because we have a few already)
1 tomato

We ate the brussel sprouts for dinner last night, and they were amazing. I actually liked brussel sprouts even before trying these, but these did not have the weird aftertaste. They were phenomenal, and all I did was steam them. Besides the brussel sprouts, we also enjoyed a blue hubbard squash - roasted with butter and brown sugar. Caleb periodically insists that we buy some unknown food from the farmers' markets.
It is through Caleb's curiosity and persistence that we discovered not only blue hubbard squash but also delicata squash. Both are great. If you think you don't like squash, you might want to revisit them with the simple farmer "recipe." When Caleb finds his prize, we end up asking the farmer what the object is and how to cook it. Usually the farmer tells us to cut it in half, butter/oil it and roast it until it is soft. Give it a try - you might like it!

Aaron already has polished off the arugula by adding it to his turkey wraps. He is so very proud of his professional-looking wraps. I must say that they are very tasty and do look quite professional - but less expensive. :)

Tonight's adventure will include more squash as well as a modified Kielbasa y kapusta, Kielbasa and Cabbage. Since we don't eat kielbasa, I'm going to substitute the casing-free chicken sausage from Trader Joe's.

I'll report back soon!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank You for the Delicious Dinner, Mommy

How many parents wish their kids would say anything like the title of this post? Can you imagine your kids saying it unprompted? Make the soup we had tonight and your kids just might.

Last week our CSA gave us a butternut squash. All I could think was soup soup soup. Butternut squash soup... hmm... I had butternut squash soup at an Italian restaurant years ago and fell in love with it. Thanks to Stephanie O'Dea at A Year of Slow Cooking, I made butternut squash soup at home. In case you don't want to click to the other blog, here's the recipe straight from the source.

Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
2 small medium onions, or 2 T onion flakes
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 small apples, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Use at least a 5 quart crockpot for this soup.

Cut the squash in half long ways. This is terribly hard to do. If you microwave the entire squash for 2 to 5 minutes on high, the skin will soften, but you will still need to use a pretty powerful knife. If you can find already peeled and cubed butternut squash use that. (JEN NOTE: 5 minutes in the nuker made this job REALLY easy with my very large chef knife.)

I couldn't believe how difficult it was for me to cut the squash. My knife got stuck. (JEN NOTE: REALLY - Just stick the squash in your microwave. You'll be glad)

Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Brush olive oil on the inside of the squash and roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until you can peel the skin away from the flesh. (JEN NOTE: My regular peeler worked fine for this!)

Plug in your crockpot and turn to high. Add the broth, and the onion and apple. Stir in the spices. Cover to let heat.

When the squash has finished roasting, add it to the pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4.

Blend in small batches with a stand blender, or carefully blend with an immersible wand. (JEN NOTE: Make sure you have a pot into which you can transfer blended soup!)


The reviews of this soup were unanimous. Aaron loved it. Caleb asked for seconds. Ellie finished what I gave her minus one small spoonful because she was distracted by garlic bread (what can I say? she is my daughter.) My kitchen smelled like warm apple cider and "autumn" for most of the day. I actually have leftovers (*whew*) and am totally willing to butcher another butternut squash to make more of this fantastic soup. If you think you don't like squash, you need to try this soup.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CSA Pickup and Menu

This week's CSA box included:

6 ears of corn
4 bell peppers
2 winter squash
a few bunches of broccoli
4 eggplants - 2 aubergine, 1 speckled, 1 round
2 bunches of kale - 1 dinosaur, 1 purple stem
1 bunch of arugula
handful of basil sprigs
2 small heads of lettuce - 1 red leaf, 1 green (probably Boston)
5 hot peppers
12 apples
6 peaches
6 pears

We split that with our neighbors but gave them the squash this week and kept the hot peppers and broccoli. Aaron almost immediately requested the cheesy eggplant casserole I made about 2 weeks ago. It makes great leftovers; the kids devour it. It feels good as the weather gets cooler. Here is a list of foods I'm hoping to make this week, based on the CSA box and food we have from the farmers' market this weekend.

Cheesy eggplant casserole
Butternut squash soup in slow-cooker
Peach cobbler (or at least filling so I can bake later)
Maybe some enchiladas
Chili (Aaron's meal to make on Saturday)

I still need to think about the rest of the box contents, but it looks like another yummy week. In sadder news, our CSA informed us that next week may be the last week of the season. Fortunately our local farmers' market continues for a few more weeks, so we'll stock up more there after the CSA ends for the season.

Break Fast and Fall Cooking

It feels odd to write about food at the end of Yom Kippur, but we celebrated the end of Yom Kippur with much cooking, baking, and preparing food for our new chest freezer. We also made pizza for the first time for dinner to end our fast (how did we wait this long?).

First the pizza! During naptime today, Aaron and I realized we had no desire to cook in our usual way because we were tired from our day without food. Dinner usually takes an hour to prepare unless we're doing leftovers, and we just didn't feel up for it. Aaron suggested using
the extra dough from bread I made on Saturday and leftover diced tomatoes as the base. When we picked up our CSA box today, we received a bunch of basil to add to the pizza. We added minced garlic, oregano, and our regularly stocked shredded cheese. There aren't any measurements - we just made the pizza look like we thought a pizza should look like before popping it in the 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. We'll let it bake a bit longer next time, but it was fantastic. Food after Yom Kippur always tastes particularly good, but even Caleb who ate all day requested the pizza in his lunch tomorrow. Too bad there were no leftovers!

After the kids' bedtimes, Aaron and I got busy cooking, baking, and preparing food for our new chest freezer. Tonight I mashed up approximately a triple batch of applesauce for about 14 cups of the delightful comfort food. While that was bubbling and cooling, I also made two more loaves of zucchini bread because I discovered a zucchini in our vegetable drawer that was screaming "Bake me!!" And how did I discover the zucchini but by realizing that I needed to pack Caleb's lunch tonight in order to avoid total chaos tomorrow morning. While I bounced between apples, zucchini, and Caleb's lunch, Aaron processed the corn we have both from the farmers' market and the CSA. He steamed it, packed it in freezer bags, and reorganized the chest freezer when he took it to the basement.

I shared "my" applesauce recipe in an earlier post. Caleb's lunch includes a turkey and cheese wrap, leftover grilled green beans, chopped cucumber, and diced white nectarine. I use my mother-in-law's recipe for zucchini bread. I've made variations on this, depending on whether I want to include nuts or use chocolate chips instead of raisins. Here is the original recipe:

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour (I use white whole wheat, but other flours should work fine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (I also add about 1 tsp. nutmeg)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups walnuts (OPTIONAL)
1 cup raisins (sometimes I sub 1 cup chocolate chips)
2 cups zucchini, grated (this *might* be 2 medium zucchini)
3 eggs
1 cup oil

  1. Blend flour, sugar, cinnamon (and nutmeg), salt, baking powder and baking soda in large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop nuts coarsely. Combine nuts and raisins in small bowl and set aside.
  3. Discard tips of zucchini. Grate whole zucchini in food processor. Measure 2 cups of zucchini and add to the flour mixture.
  4. Blend oil and eggs (I do this in a measuring cup). Add to the flour mixture. Stir until moistened.
  5. Add raisins and nuts. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. If you added nuts, you may want to sprinkle nuts on top.
  6. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until loaf tests done.
I often skip the nuts so that I can send the bread to school with Caleb. When I substitute chocolate chips for raisins, I use 1 cup of chips for the 1 cup of raisins. I also have used this recipe with summer squash or combined zucchini with summer squash. You can use the same recipe for muffins by changing your pan (duh!) and reducing the bake time to 25 minutes.

Coming up next ... CSA box and this week's menu!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CSA Pickup

OK, I'm already having trouble with daily blogging. What can I say? I'm a mom of 2, work part-time and am new to trying to blog daily. *sigh*

For our share of the CSA pickup, we received:
Cucumbers (2)
Lemon cucumbers (1)
Green bell peppers (1-2)
Eggplant (1)
Onions (1-2)
Hot peppers (don't know names, but one looks like a banana pepper and Aaron swears it isn't hot?) - 2
Brazilian eggplant (teeny tiny striped things that look like peppers. I have no idea what to do with them) - 3
Kale (yay! more curry!!) - 1 bunch
Arugula - 1 bunch
Apples (6, but we have a TON from our own picking on Rosh HaShanah)
Peaches (3, I think?)
Bartlett Pears (YUM! 2, I think?)
Butternut squash - 1 to be split with neighbor
Sunshine squash - 1 to be split with neighbor
Watermelon - 1 to be split with neighbor

I'm really excited to see squash because it means even more new recipes. I was thrilled to get to try the curried kale again and delighted to add to our apple stash. Have I mentioned that we have boatloads of apples? We picked a whole bushel! Since picking that bushel, I've made 9 quarts of applesauce (8 in our chest freezer and 1 for immediate consumption) and 2 loaves of apple bread without nuts so that I can send it with Caleb for his lunches at preschool. I'm figuring on a few apple crisps or cobblers (same dish really, just different topping) and maybe a few more loaves of bread as well as yet more applesauce. I think I want another 8 quarts of sauce, but I'll have to count apples. :) Crisp takes about 5-6 apples; 1 quart of applesauce takes about 8-9 apples; bread only needs 1 apple per loaf. The great thing about making apple recipes is that my kids will eat them, and I don't have to worry that they might be eating total junk.

I'll post again tomorrow with more updates on eggplant and what I do for nights when I have to be out at dinner time!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kids Ate Eggplant!

We had 3 different types of eggplant from our CSA box. I did not grow up eating eggplant as far as I recall, so coming up with ideas for it is a bit challenging. I guess I think of it as a "grown-up food," which of course is a huge mistake. The moment you let your kids know that something is not for them, they either A) want it even more or B) won't touch it with a 10-ft. pole. Their reaction usually is based on watching whether or not you really enjoy the food you claim they cannot have. My son already begs for dark chocolate, and my daughter's eyes light up when she sees my nasty highly addictive diet soda (we all have our vices).

Back to eggplant. I immediately thought eggplant parmesan when I picked up the eggplant, but then I got the chicken nuggets bug and ran out of panko (Japanese bread crumbs). I had made mighty fine enchiladas with the eggplant and various squash last week, so I didn't feel like making more quasi-Mexican food quite yet. However, if I didn't do something with these eggplants soon, they would all end up in the compost. In fact, the reason we had 3 eggplants and not 4 is because one already became compost material.

How to make eggplant that my kids and husband would happily eat? I think this is why websites like and exist. I spent a few minutes searching for eggplant recipes, ignoring all of the recipes that required breadcrumbs or looked complicated. At last I found the recipe to go with our Friday night dinner:

Cheesy Eggplant Pesto Stacks

Wow are these good! It was like having a pesto pizza without a wheat-based crust. I wish I could say I used our own pesto, but I didn't feel like thawing out the large amount Aaron made (amount unknown, but knowing Aaron it will be a lot). I wish I could say I even grated my own cheese, but I was feeling extremely lazy and used some store-bought grated cheese. Even with less than ideal ingredients, this dish was delicious and not at all hard to make. We all loved them and complained that I had not doubled the recipe.

My next adventure with eggplant will be a casserole that claims to disguise the eggplant. Personally, I don't think eggplant has so much of a taste as a texture, but I'm all about casseroles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chicken Nuggets

Since Caleb started preschool a few weeks ago, he decided that chicken nuggets are his favorite food. Although we have "minimally processed" chicken nuggets in the house, I have been avoiding them for about a month. Don't get me wrong, bite-sized chicken is rather appealing - fun shape, easy for small hands to grasp and manipulate, very dippable. So why on earth do I avoid a "minimally processed" chicken nugget?

What is a chicken nugget anyway?

A chicken nugget is a breaded or battered "piece" of minced pre-cooked chicken, according to my friend Wikipedia. As I read more about chicken nuggets, I found out that McDonald's chicken McNuggets may contain 38 ingredients. Seriously? OK, so I went to the McDonald's website for an ingredient list.

Chicken McNuggets®:
White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent).

How much of that would I recognize sitting on a shelf? Can this stuff sit on a shelf? I really don't know. Should food be this complicated? I thought it was called "fast-food."

Even though the nuggets in my freezer are not from McD's, I just don't feel comfortable with the technology in this so-called food. I decided that I would try my hand at nuggets because there has to be a healthier, less complicated way. I took a recipe for oven baked chicken fingers and cut the chicken breast to look more like a nugget. By the way, I don't bother making either of the sauces the recipe suggests. Someday I'll give the honey mustard a try, but so far my kids like nuggets without any sauce or maybe ketchup (not surprising).

My nuggets have 5 ingredients (not including seasoning for breadcrumbs): chicken, breadcrumbs, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and either oil or egg. The breadcrumbs get some herbs in them to make them "Italian."

Tonight Caleb and I made the nuggets together. I was nervous to cook something involving raw meat and eggs with my 3.5 year old. He helped with nearly every step and did a fantastic job! He rinsed and patted dry the Trader Joe's all natural chicken. He cracked and scrambled the eggs. I removed bits of eggshell. He took the cut up chicken and put it in the eggs and then into the gallon-size freezer bag full of the "Italian" breadcrumbs. We took turns jostling the bag to coat the chicken. He even helped wipe off the counter when all the fun mess was done.

All four of us enjoyed the nuggets - yes, a food that both kids and adults enjoyed. :)
We made enough nuggets to freeze some for later and store some in the refrigerator for more immediate consumption.

Given that the bake time alone was 20 minutes, I realize my nuggets are not fast food, but why should food be fast anyway? What do we really gain from fast food, other than weight and a mental disconnect from how our food is made? Sometimes fast food or convenience food (e.g., ready-to-eat) is OK and even necessary. Not being involved in our food preparation should NOT be the norm.

Preparing your own food can be an immensely satisfying experience. For families, it can be a great way to come together throughout the day, and it can be a wonderful educational experience for kids. Cooking combines math, sensory table fun, history, and much more all into one activity. If you haven't cooked with your kids before, I highly recommend it. Start simple and with something you know they will like. Since it is fall, try making your own applesauce with the whole family. Applesauce is super easy - 3-4 ingredients, about 3 steps once you have the apples. Adults can cut apples; kids can mash the boiled apples; everyone can eat the apples.

From The Better Homes and Gardens checkered cookbook:
3 pounds cooking apples (~8-9 medium), cut and cored (peeling OPTIONAL)
1 cup water
1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar (1/3 is PLENTY for us)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (OPTIONAL)

1) In large pot, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 8-10 minutes or until apples are tender (mashable). Add water as necessary.
2) Remove from heat. Mash mixture with potato masher OR process in a blender or food processor to desired texture. Serve warm or chilled. Stir before serving. Makes about 4.5 cups of applesauce.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday Food

Yesterday was a preschool day which meant breakfast needed to be quick and I had to pack lunch the night before.  Aaron had to work late, so dinner would end up being leftovers of something.  Not a very inspiring day in the food department, but it's our reality sometimes.

Breakfast for the kids included zucchini chocolate chip bread, oatmeal, and some fresh fruit from the farmers' markets.  I make the bread myself whenever I have some zucchini and/or summer squash around (often this time of year).  The chocolate chips were Aaron's suggestion and a mighty yummy one.  The oatmeal is a store-brand organic - cheap, quick and really tasty.  Fruit always tastes better from the farmers' market or from our CSA share.  

Caleb's lunch included leftover curried chickpeas and kale from last night's dinner, Veggie Rotini Spirals courtesy of Hodgson Mills, and some cut up nectarine.  I fully expected to see none of the pasta or fruit at the end of the day and all of the curry.  I was mostly wrong.  He ate every last bit of curry and fruit and didn't touch the pasta.  Weird, right?  What preschooler doesn't choose pasta over curry?  I'm not complaining!

Dinner was saved by some advanced planning.  A few weeks back, I made chicken enchiladas with summer squash, zucchini, and white eggplant.  I made enough to fill both a 13 x 9 and a 9 x 9 (or do I have 8 x 8's? I never remember).  I froze the 9 x 9 for one of those nights when I didn't feel like cooking.  Well, that was last night.  It took forever to heat up in the oven (should have stuck it in the fridge in the morning to thaw!), but it was yummy and enjoyed by all.

The enchiladas recipe is below.  It sounds complicated if you have never made enchiladas, but seriously it is really easy.  I don't do complicated - remember, my kids are 3.5 years old and 15 months old.  I don't have time for complicated! :)

Chicken Enchiladas w/in-season veggies - variation from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest Cookbook

Ingredients for enchiladas:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups minced onion  (I used 1 rather large onion, chopped)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced (I used pre-minced garlic and guesstimate)
3/4 tsp. salt (I skip salt)
Veggies: I used 1 medium white eggplant, 1 medium summer squash, 1 medium zucchini.  You can use other combinations of veggies as well such as bell peppers with squash or you can add beans.

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (I probably used 2 – 2.5 tsp. when all was said and done)
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
cayenne and black pepper to taste
1 1/3 cups (packed) grated jack cheese (I used at least this much IN the filling and it was a mozzarella and cheddar blend.  I put a bunch more on top)

Ingredients for sauce:
5 medium ripe tomatoes, diced (I use a 28oz can)
1 large red bell pepper, minced/chopped
1 tsp. salt (pretty sure I skipped it)
5 large cloves garlic, minced (see above – Iestimate)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Instructions for enchiladas:
1) Heat oil in a large, deep skillet.  Add onion, garlic and salt.  Saute over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until the onion is quite soft.
2) Add chicken and seasonings.  Cook until chicken is done.  Add veggies and seasonings.  Stir and cook over medium heat another 5-8 minutes, or until the veggies are just tender.
3) Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before filling the tortillas.
Instructions for sauce:
1) Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, partially cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
2) You can leave it chunky or puree in a food processor or blender.  For extra smooth sauce, pass the puree through a fine strainer or sieve.  I also have used a potato masher like I would do for applesauce.
3) Pour a small amount of sauce into a shallow baking dish (e.g., 13×9 pyrex).
Assemble the enchiladas by placing a few tablespoons of filling on one side of each tortillas and rolling up the tortilla.  Lay each enchilada seam side down in the baking dish.  Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas.  Add cheese on top if desired.  Cover with foil, and bake for about 30 minutes in a 325 oven.  Serve hot.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What about the rest of those CSA veggies?

I realize I didn't answer about the rest of the CSA veggies in my last post.  So here are some ideas I have for the rest of the veggies.

Cucumbers make a great side for my kids, and my husband makes a wonderful cucumber and tomato salad.  I don't like uncooked tomatoes EXCEPT in this salad.  He dices cucumbers, tomatoes, and a red onion.  Sometimes he adds a bit of a bell pepper.  Then he adds olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and sometimes salt.  I call it Israeli salad, but I don't know whether it has an official name.  Anyway, cukes and tomatoes are pretty easy to get through in our house.

Green peppers are great for salads or in enchiladas.  I may make enchiladas this week to get through some of the eggplant.  I might also think about trying my hand at some kind of eggplant parmesan.  Maybe I could use panko for it!  Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs, and I love them because they seem crunchier to me.

Onions are a staple in our house.  We use them in everything from eggs to enchiladas.

I suspect we have more than 3 ears of corn right now since I don't remember eating much corn last week.  We have a few whole chickens and chicken parts (legs and thighs, I think) from Chestnut Farms in our freezer as well as the "All Natural" chicken from Trader Joe's I like to use for chicken fingers and such.  The corn goes so well with chicken, so I see that in our future.

We still have kale from last week in addition to the dinosaur kale we picked up this week.  Given the success of tonight's dinner, I foresee making a larger batch of the curried chickpeas and kale - maybe enough to freeze.

I'll keep you posted on how things go with the vegetables!

CSA Pickup

Our family joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year.   We split a full share at Stillman's Farm with our neighbors across the street.  From the end of June through the end of October, I pick up a large box of vegetables and fruits weekly and divide the bounty with my neighbor.  Earlier in the season, we received loads of dark green leafy vegetables, beets a-plenty, and glorious berries.  As the season has progressed, we continue to receive delicious diverse produce.

Perhaps more importantly, my family has learned so much in just one season.  Aaron and I have learned new recipes; Caleb and Ellie have learned where food really comes from.  I think we all appreciate just how much work really goes into providing nourishment for ourselves and each other.

Monday is our pick up day, so after the kids napped today, we made the trip to the pick up site.  Our share of the box today included:

  • Dinosaur kale
  • beans of some kind
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 onions
  • 3 corn
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 6 apples
  • 2 pears
  • 1 peaches - neighbor got 2 this time
  • basil
  • lettuce to neighbor because we have plenty
It's a bit overwhelming at first, but we have a bit of a groove with how to get through the food in one week.  The fruit is a no-brainer.  It gets eaten anytime - breakfast, snacks, Caleb's preschool lunch, after dinner when we're trying to avoid junk food.  With 6 apples this time, I could make applesauce, but I think I'm going to wait until we go apple picking in another week or two.  What about all those veggies though?  How do I get my kids to eat them?
Tonight's dinner attempted to use up some of last week's CSA veggies.  Check out this recipe for Curried Chickpeas and Kale.  I honestly didn't know if my kids would touch it.  Both kids like Indian food, but neither kid has taken to cooked kale.  I made a side of mashed potatoes and made a mock-naan with garlic buttered whole wheat pita toasted in the oven.  I knew they would eat one of those sides.  No, potatoes and bread do not a healthy meal make, but I planned ahead and made sure the rest of the day is more balanced.  I offered up scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and zucchini bread at breakfast.  Lunch was leftover tomato soup (thank you Trader Joe's!) and leftover pasta casserole (thank you dear husband Aaron!).  Both kids had Trader Joe's fruit bars as a quick snack after nap before CSA pick up. 
But guess what?
Yes, the kids LOVED it.  We told Caleb it was like "dipping sauce" from the Indian restaurant, and he ate it up, asked for more, and told me that it was delicious and would I please send it to school with him tomorrow?  Ellie showed a preference for mashed potatoes, but she also ate up the curry dish when I mixed it with her potatoes.  The only mistake to the meal tonight was not making a double recipe.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome to Real Food For Kids!

I love food. I love my family. I love making good real food for my family.

One night while settling my daughter down for bed, the idea of writing about my quest to provide real food for my family. Allow me to introduce my family. I am a mostly stay-at-home mom, 33 years old, living in a western suburb of Boston. In addition to the blessing of being a mom, I also have the honor of teaching middle and high school students at a Jewish supplemental school for 6 hours per week. I am married to a wonderful man, Aaron, who I met in my last semester of college. He works as a university instructor and computer consultant. I think he is quite talented -- he can fix and build all sorts of things, is a great cook without using recipes, plays guitar, and he is just a great guy. I'm sure I'll share more about him as this blog progresses. Aaron and I have two children. Caleb is 3.5 years old, passionate, inquisitive, extremely active and rather direct with his opinions (of which he has many). He keeps us right where we belong -- on our toes. Elisheva (Ellie) is 15 months old, playful, curious, becoming more opinionated and increasingly mobile.

My hope for this blog is to share how Aaron and I attempt to feed ourselves and our family reasonably healthy real food. In the past few years, we have learned a lot about food and changed our eating habits as a result of what we've learned. We cook an increasing number of our meals from scratch or at least from minimally processed foods. We try to follow the idea that food is what our grandparents and great-grandparents would recognize as food. We eliminated high fructose corn syrup from our house and reduced how many "ready-to-eat" meals we buy. We also started thinking about how our food is created, produced, and distributed which led to our buying more food locally and food grown sustainably or organically.

As far as our eating habits, Aaron and I have our quirks like most people do. For starters, we choose not to eat mammals. I choose not to eat mammals because I get sick every time I try, though at this point I have a more philosophical reason as well. They make milk; I make milk. That's too close for comfort. Seriously though, I just don't like being sick enough to eat red meat. Aaron feels like it's too close in the food chain, though he originally gave up red meat thinking he would lose weight. Other than not eating mammal, we also wrestle with the idea of kashrut/kosher. We don't have a kosher home, but we don't eat foods which are "overtly treyf" (treyf = not kosher). For example, we don't eat shellfish/crustaceans or pork. And of course, we each have our likes and dislikes (I love chocolate and hate olives; Aaron loves peanut butter and hates sweet potatoes).

Then toss our two young children into the food puzzle. Fortunately our children do not have allergies and they are reasonably open to trying new foods, but they are kids. We never make eating into a battle, other than to establish a one bite/one taste rule. I always ask the kids to try a taste of each thing being offered. I don't enforce this rule with Ellie so much yet, but it works well with Caleb. We try to make food fun and tasty, and we try to make sure there is at least one thing at each meal the kids will eat. Sometimes we succeed; sometimes we don't.

And that's what this blog will be about - our successes and failures with providing our family with real food. I'll include recipes, photos when I have my act together, and lots of stories about making and trying different foods.