Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CSA Pickup

Yesterday we picked up our box of yumminess, so I thought I would report. The only sadness was that strawberries are done. :( In their place, we got a quart of blueberries. Here was our share:
  • 2 bunches of kale (not sure the variety, but at least one was crinkly leaved)
  • 2 bunches of beets (red and golden)
  • 2 or 3 zucchini
  • 2 or 3 summer squash
  • 2 cucumbers
  • about a pound of shell peas
  • 2 heads of lettuce (Romaine and Boston Green)
  • 2 bunches of arugula
  • 1 quart of blueberries
I think I remembered everything this time. For dinner last night, I took one of the zucchini from our box and a golden zucchini from the farmers' market and instructed Aaron in making zucchini-potato pancakes according to Weight Watchers. They were yummy!

I'm considering making a banana blueberry bread I saw on AllRecipes, and I'd love to get my neighbor's recipe for the beet salad she brought over the other night. Other than that, I'm a bit stumped on meals for the week. It's been ridiculously hot and humid for the past few days, so cooking has felt rather unappealing. Hot stove or oven in hot weather leads to a very grumpy me. I welcome cold meal ideas!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Kabobs

Yum yum yum!!

The above picture is what we had for dinner last night. It was fairly easy to make once I got past cutting the chicken. My kids loved the chicken. They were not as delighted with the zucchini or the onions. My son swears he only likes uncooked zucchini (what is wrong with him? *grin*), and my daughter likes to imitate. The only change I would make to the recipe would be to marinate the vegetables with the chicken.

1 1/4 pound(s) uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt (I used kosher salt)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (I didn't measure this)
2 sprays cooking spray (we skipped it on the grill)
1 large zucchini, cut into 1 inch thick half-moons
2 small red onions, quartered through the root

Mix the chicken, spices and orange juice together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours (oops - I only let it sit about an hour because I didn't read ahead).

Off heat, coat grill with cooking spray (oops, we skipped it and it still worked). Prepare gas grill for direct high-heat grilling OR build a high-heat charcoal bed in the center of the coal grate on a charcoal grill.

Divide the chicken, zucchini and onions on 4 large skewers. Set skewers directly over the heat and grill for 16 minutes, turning about every 4 minutes so that all sides are evenly browned/cooked.

One skewer = one serving. We doubled the recipe for leftovers. Nom nom nom!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garden Pictures

As promised, here are pictures from our garden. I took these this evening.

A view of the main raised bed. You can't really see the bed behind it, but I think you can spy the 2 sunflower plants next to the left bean tipi. The sunflowers are not in the raised bed. For the curious, the white house is not our house.

There are small yellow flowers on our cucumber plants. Hopefully you can see at least one in the center of the picture.

One of several tomatoes! I think it's a pretty good size and am looking forward to its ripening.

Bean flowers. I don't see loads of flowers at first glance, but I see more when I move some of the leaves.

The less successful section of the garden. The leaves with some brownish parts are supposed to be swiss chard. The leaves which look munched on (and probably are by some kind of microscopic pest) are supposed to be broccoli. Grf.
One of my rogue squash plants has produced this. This plant was NOT supposed to be in the raised bed with my carrots and pole beans. Yet it is determined to bring me fruit of the earth. I believe it will be a pumpkin. Pie... bread...

My beloved sunflower plants. I do wonder when I will see signs of an actual flower.

Yet more squash/pumpkin. There are some flowers just barely visible in this picture. Some will be zucchini; others will be summer squash. And a few will make more pumpkins. By the way, the plant which looks like some tall misplaced grass is one of the corn plants.

A better look at one of the corn plants.

I remain hopeful about the blueberries. They seem reluctant to get any bigger or turn blue.

The fruit trees are not terribly interesting from a picture perspective. They continue to produce more and bigger leaves. The strawberries seem to have run their course this year. We are planning a different protective structure for them next year to allow them more room to grow.

Next up... grilled Moroccan chicken kabobs!

Chestnut Farms!

A long overdue post about our trip to Chestnut Farms!

We visited dear friends in western MA about 2 weeks back. On our return trip, we traveled to Hardwick, MA to "meet the meat" from Chestnut Farms.

These are the sheep we saw from where we parked our car. The property is gorgeous and so peaceful. It was like walking into a calming breath.

We started at the barnyard, where we met baby goats, baby turkeys, chicks (1 day old!), piglets, pigs and the master boar, one of 2 roosters (THE rooster as they call him for his antics), and saw several wandering chickens in addition to the "pretty ones" that I think Rich keeps for pets.

Aaron is not a fan of touching or holding birds. Yet he held a baby turkey. I'm pretty sure he's thinking about Thanksgiving.

Ellie loved all the animals, but the goat loved her equally.

Caleb and I both want a goat.

The kids insisted on riding a tractor. I insisted on watching them play with the piglets.

Apparently piglets like shoelaces. They rooted at Ellie's shoes despite her loud protests.

For me, the highlight of the trip was to see the school bus chickens. I had learned from the farmers who came to the Natick market that they keep their chickens safe from non-human predators in converted school buses. I believed them, but I still wanted to see the buses with my own eyes. Now that I have, I share the bus-converted to-chicken coop with you!

Chickens doing their chicken thing, out in the open air.

Stop - Chicken Crossing. :)

Inside one of the buses. The buses are open in the day, surprisingly clean considering their residents/riders.
We had a great time seeing where our chicken comes from. I feel even better than I already did supporting this farm and encouraging others to do the same.

Birthday Party Goody Bags

Short post here with a simple question:

What do you do with the candy your kids get from going to birthday parties?

I try to avoid feeding my kids foods with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), and candy is not eaten daily (maybe not weekly?) here. Part of me thinks "eh, it's just one piece from a birthday party." Part of me thinks "yuck! I'm setting them up to eat junk food!" Yet another part of me thinks "This can teach them about moderation and exceptions to the rule."

After 34 years of cavity free teeth, I have to have a cavity filled this week. I found myself throwing away a few pieces of candy that Caleb brought home, probably unfairly. So I ask you for your thoughts - what would you do with food you don't want to feed your kids? Should I have left it at the party somehow?

Garden, Food, SO much happening!

Where to start? So much has been happening, and I seem unable to find time to update here. Daily swim lessons mean my mornings are consumed with time at our local pond. Until this week, I hadn't made a reasonable attempt at meal planning in weeks. Yes, I know I had tried some Weight Watchers recipes, but I didn't even get through the 3 I picked! Oy! On with some updates...

We have a veritable jungle in our raised beds. The pole beans are lush tipis and are beginning to flower. The carrots look like a mass of parsley. The misplanted squash (squash which inadvertently ended up in the big bed) is trying to take over the entire bed, but at least it is flowering beautifully. We even think the peppers might have sprouted at long last. I must remember to take pictures to share with you!

The only failure thus far has been the swiss chard. I will have to figure out a better way to plant chard in the future if I want to try to grow our own.

Our lettuce survived Ellie's enthusiastic and untimely harvesting, so we are still enjoying salads and crunchiness on our sandwiches. Our basil has grown enough that we made a small batch of pesto today. Caleb LOVES pesto. Love is an understatement in this case.

The lentil burger recipe I tried was basically a bust as far as creating something that would make a burger. Aaron saved the recipe by adding several eggs, and the kids actually did eat the burgers. I think I will cook the lentils MUCH longer next time to see if I can avoid using an egg (saves on the WW points).

Tonight's dinner will be grilled Moroccan chicken kabobs. Caleb is looking forward to it, so at least 3 of us ought to enjoy the meal.

I made a crustless swiss chard quiche thanks to having delicious chard from Stillman's, and the kids really do love it. I think I may have to create a page just for recipes and link from daily posts to it.

Looking forward
As summer continues, we are looking forward to more fruit from our CSA and the farmers' markets. We have been enjoying strawberries and raspberries tremendously. The kids are not as enamored with blueberries as I recall, but I'm happy to have the locally grown fruit.

I'm excited to watch our garden's flowers become food and to watch my kids' excitement at the impending harvests. Both kids helped pluck basil leaves for the pesto we ate today, so I'm sure they will enjoy more picking as the season arrives.

My remaining challenge is summed up in my blog's title - meal planning. I truly have forgotten how to set aside to do this very simple yet important task. I am hoping that the box of goodies from the CSA will re-inspire me to get back to it. Cooking for my family is SO much easier when I plan.

In the meantime, I'll try to post garden pictures soon!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Yes my friends, CSA season has at last returned to our household! Today was the first pick up for our share of the Stillman's CSA. As I expected from the first box, we have loads of green leafy goodness. Here is a tally of what was included in our full share box. We share this box with our neighbors, so really I only keep half of what is on the list.
  • 2 bunches of kale, 2 different varieties
  • 1 quart(?) strawberries. What do you call the next box size up from a pint?
  • 2 heads of lettuce, 2 different varieties - green and red
  • 2 bunches of swiss chard, 2 varieties - "plain" and "rainbow"
  • 2 bunches arugula
  • 2 bunches of radishes
  • beets, glorious beets. I *think* 2 bunches.
Tonight's dinner was lentil burgers with a side of carmelized onions and kale. The lentil burgers are a Weight Watchers recipe that we had to modify to make work. I'm not sure what the recipe author thought would bind the lentil mixture together, but the recipe had no egg or additional oil. Aaron saved the recipe by adding a few eggs. The kale recipe comes to me from RecipeZaar.

Yes, this is what I offered to my kids for dinner.

My kids actually ate the burgers!! Given that I thought they were a certain fail when I had to bring Aaron in to rescue the recipe, I am delighted they ate them. Caleb had a few bites of the kale, claimed to like it, but did not finish his small portion. Ellie wouldn't touch the kale. This didn't surprise me. Dark green leafy vegetables can be a really hard sell to kids, and this recipe doesn't make them LOOK appealing, even though they taste great. I have much higher hopes for the swiss chard (quiche is coming soon to a kitchen near me...*grin*).

Anyway, it is SO nice to return to our weekly CSA pickup. I love knowing that I have guaranteed good (quality, quantity, etc.) vegetables for the summer. I love knowing that I can bring back last year's favorite recipes and try out some new ones.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NY Times on Kids and Food

This is an old article, but I just discovered it today in my skimming of the New York Times. Even though I think I do pretty well by my kids as far as healthy eating habits goes, I picked up some ideas from the article and thought I would share it here.

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My last post was about food battles with Ellie, and I'm delighted to report they are improving. She seems to be eating more quantity and diversity than in previous weeks, though I'm certain to jinx that by writing this (or perhaps even by thinking it).

We are heading out of town for a few days tomorrow, so I thought I would post a few updates for different food related topics. By now, I'm sure no one expects daily posts from me (a lofty goal for me, apparently), but I still felt this need to wrap up what I perceived as loose ends. And here are the updates

We have harvested 19 strawberries as of last count. Nothing hugely impressive (not enough to fill a pint), but I'm delighted because they truly are OUR strawberries. And they have been delicious. :)

The squash bed has grown out of control. I absolutely need to transplant about half of the squash quite soon or we may be in danger of having no squash due to overcrowding. I'm not sure whether squash is transplantable, but I figure it's worth a shot. A quick Google search seems to indicate this is possible. They are not flowering yet, so I think this will work out. Worst case, I have too much squash but not nearly as much "too much" as before. My neighbors will be locking their porch doors in the not-too-distant future to avoid squash deliveries.

The bean vines are finally reaching the tops of the 6 foot tall poles. I'm very excited by the prospect of bean tipis.

The tomato plants have more than doubled in size.

The carrots no longer look like a row of grass but instead are starting to look like carrot tops.

The other vegetables seems in good health, and the marigolds seem "fatter" in their blossoms.

Weight Loss
I have lost a total of 5.6 pounds since starting Weight Watchers a few weeks ago. I'm quite excited about this. Part of my weight loss journey has included trying out some new recipes, and I'll try to remember to post some of those when we get back from our weekend. So far the kids have been happy or indifferent to the new recipes, with minimal complaints.

Meal Planning - What we are feeding the kids
My kids have been eating A LOT of peanut butter and jelly for lunch and oatmeal for breakfast. Nothing fancy, but these foods seems to have become comfort foods for them. In addition to those favorites, lunch and dinner always include a vegetable and usually a fruit. I try to think about a protein, a vegetable, and something sweet but preferably healthy (thus fruit but sometimes yogurt).

This past week I made a vegetable stew which Aaron and I loved and the kids at least ate about half of their servings. Caleb particularly enjoyed the couscous, and I think Ellie liked it once she realized it was a form of pasta. Not a huge success for the kids, but not a failure either.

Turkish Vegetable Stew with Israeli Couscous - from Weight Watchers
1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, raw, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise, then into 1/2 inch thick pieces
1 medium yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks (I used a red pepper)
15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes, with roasted garlic (I used plain 'maters and added some garlic)
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. scallions, sliced
1/3 c. fresh dill, chopped (I used about 1/6 c. of dry dill weed)
1/2 c. feta cheese

To make couscous, bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add couscous. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of oil.

While couscous cooks, make stew. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant; cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow pepper; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in garbanzo beans, tomatoes, water, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in scallions and dill.

To serve, spoon a scant 3/4 cup of couscous onto each of 4 serving plates or bowls and top each with 1 1/2 cups of stew. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of cheese and serve.

This recipe was a good way to get veggies into my kids. I also discovered that Caleb prefers raw zucchini to cooked - go figure.

Other than some new recipes which definitely include lots of veggies (Greek Penne had spinach and tomatoes but was NOT a hit with the kids sadly), we have enjoyed a few meals of fantastic chicken from Chestnut Farms. We are going to visit the farm this weekend on our way back from visiting our friends in western MA. I'm very excited about seeing the farm! Pictures will be forthcoming.

Anyway, meal planning has been happening a bit more since I need to plan to do well at my weight loss. I don't have a groove for it yet, but it is feeling easier to cook and make sure my kids get the foods they need to grow.

I *think* those are all the updates for now. Pictures of our overgrown garden, the farm, and more recipe reviews will be on their way after the weekend!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ellie is VERY 2 or The Food Battle Has Begun

Two is a time when many kids try to prove their independence or at least play with the idea that they are independent beings with their own ideas and free will. It is the age of tantrums, the beginning of true power struggles. In some ways, Caleb turned 2 before he was 2, with tantrums for the record books and heel digging so strong that I'm surprised he didn't leave marks. Ellie is a different child.

Ellie turned 2 on May 24. We had a lovely birthday party for her. She spent most of the party eating - grapes, berries, crackers, some cheese, and of course cake at the end. Prior to turning 2, she expressed some preferences about food - love is not a strong enough word to describe her affection for Annie's cheddar bunnies - but generally she tried nearly anything we offered her.

Ellie is 2.

Mealtimes have become rather unpleasant.

E: I want yogurt!
Parent: Strawberry or vanilla?
E: I want strawberry!!
Parent: OK, here is the strawberry yogurt.
E: NOOOOO!!! I don't want yogurt!
Parent: OK. (return yogurt to fridge)
(repeat until ready to stab self with spoon for yogurt)

When she does allow food to be placed in front of her, the food becomes a toy or merely something to shove away. She also fixates on one food for an entire day - yesterday was cracker day. Even offering something to go with the fixation is unacceptable.

Me: Ellie, would you like cheese with your crackers?
E: No! I don't want cheese!! CRACKERS!!!!

*sigh* And how am I supposed to write about feeding my kids real food when one of them alternates between eating only one food per day and refusing all food? So I share with you this struggle because I know other parents go through this. I know parents who have kids who will not touch a vegetable. I know of kids who eat only white foods (e.g., pasta, bread, cheese of the string variety). I also share this struggle with you because I have a plan for getting Ellie to rejoin the eaters in our family.

She will eat when she is hungry. My job is to offer healthy and hopefully tasty food. Her job is to eat when she is hungry. I will not try to convince her to eat ("Come on honey, try one bite/lick/taste"). I will not force her to remain at the table until she eats. I will not feed her junk, even if that is the only thing she requests.

This morning she asked for popcorn after having 3 slices of an orange. The answer was no. She cried, begged, whined. No popcorn for breakfast. I offered her similar textures - Cheerios, Puffins. She screamed no at me. OK, but no popcorn.

At lunch I made her a PB&J, 1 strawberry, and a few cucumber slices. She happily ate the berry and the cucumber but picked at the sandwich.
She asked for pasta, and Aaron refused as the lunch menu didn't include pasta. Aaron and I agree not to be short order cooks for our kids. She asked for cheese. I gave her a slice of what we call sample cheese (yucky white American cheese from the grocery deli counter. I hate American cheese.). She ate most of that and eventually took a few bites of her sandwich. She declared herself done when she still had about half of her half-sandwich left. I cleaned her up and let her down.

No battle, no tantrum. A success if not very filling for her.

Those of you with kids, do you try to persuade your non-eaters to eat? What do you try? What works? Leave me comments with ideas or questions!

Meal Planning with Weight Loss in Mind

I just completed week 2 of Weight Watchers. I started the program weighing 182.2 pounds. I'm going to be really excited when I lose 5 pounds, just because it's a nice "roundish" number. I'll be even more excited when I get below 175. I lost 0.8 pounds this week, bringing my cumulative weight loss to 3.6 pounds and weight to 178.6.

After only these two weeks, I already identified 2 big challenges for me. Snacks and planning dinner. I'm happy these are my challenges rather than other challenges. Some people struggle to eat healthy food, choosing junk instead of real food. Some people really struggle with portion control. I have some portion control problem (otherwise I wouldn't be overweight - duh, right?), but that hasn't been difficult with Weight Watchers. However, finding appropriate snacks - filling, tasty, fun, but not loaded with points (i.e., high calories and fat, low fiber) - AND figuring out dinner have been tough for me.

Then I remembered how easy dinner felt when we were picking up our box of produce from Stillman's last summer. The box made it easier because I had to plan dinners around the vegetables before the vegetables went bad. This week I decided I have to return to meal planning so that I can be successful at my weight loss journey. Weight Watchers has a great tool to help with this - a HUGE recipe database, searchable by type of food, meal, number of points, ingredients and probably more. I picked 3 new recipes to try out.

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Kabobs
Turkish Vegetable Stew with Israeli Couscous (I love Israeli couscous!)
Lentil Burgers

I'm hoping the kids will eat them. I know the kids at least will try them. I'll share recipes for what works for us and let you know how it goes.

First Fruits!

You are looking at the first four strawberries we harvested this year from our patch in OUR backyard. Conveniently, there were four ready at once - one for each of us. I think these may have been the best tasting strawberries I have had in at least a year. Aaron and I recited shehecheyanu and ha-adamah. Ellie threw a tantrum when she found out we didn't have more than one per person.

Fortunately for Ellie, I visited the strawberries again today.

Five berries today. No, it's not much, but it is one more than we had a few days ago. For the bean counters out there, Aaron is counting how many berries we get this year. We've already far surpassed our "crop" from last year.

I fibbed to the kids about today's berries, telling them that there was one for each of us. Ellie will get the extra berry when no one is looking.