Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rejected Smoothies

This morning I made fruit filled smoothies for me and the kids. Caleb has been begging that I make him a smoothie for at least a week or 2 since I made myself a few and didn't make enough to share. I always think making smoothies will be easy, but I actually find them to be a bit of a pain to make. It's a good thing I really like them. :)

I don't follow a recipe for smoothies, but I just sort of throw together whatever fruit sounds good with a bit of yogurt and ice cubes. Today's smoothie ingredients were:
  • about a handful and a half raspberries (most of a pint)
  • about a handful and a half blueberries
  • 2 peaches (peeled and pitted)
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 Wallaby organic vanilla yogurts (they are not thick)
  • ice
Caleb informed me as I was making the smoothie that he didn't like bananas. This is a bunch of baloney sausages as I have witnessed his eating said fruit in the recent past. I informed him that he wouldn't be able to taste the bananas once they were mixed in.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

He took a sip. He put down his cup and ran to the other room, sulked, and told me all he could taste was banana. Ellie devoured hers. I enjoyed mine. I tried to doctor Caleb's by adding more berries to mask the banana. No luck.

As he happily ate his Trader Joe's black cherry yogurt, he said, "The next time you make this, please don't put banana in it."

*SIGH* Hard to say no to that, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Perfect Pancakes - Oat Pancakes from Weight Watchers

I just ate what may have been the best pancakes ever.

Oat Pancakes - from Weight Watchers
3/4 c. white all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. quick cooking rolled oats, do NOT use instant
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. unpacked light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (I was out of this so skipped it)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 c. 1% low-fat milk, divided (I had maybe 1/4 c, so I used apple juice and my splash of milk)
2 sprays cooking spray (I don't measure this)
6 Tbsp. maple syrup

In a large bowl, combine both flours. Add oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; stir well. Add sugar; stir again.

In a medium bowl, beat together egg and egg whites, applesauce and butter. Stir in 1 c. milk. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir well, but do NOT beat.

Coat a 12-inch nonstick skillet or griddle pan with cooking spray. Set over medium heat. Measure out 1/4 c. of pancake batter and drop onto prepared pan (Measuring is worth it! It's much easier to pour and get even-sized pancakes). Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 4 pancakes at a time (depends on your pan size - I made 6). Cook on first side until pancakes are golden on bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip over and cook on other side until golden on bottom, about 3 minutes.

Remove pancakes to a preheated oven to keep warm or put on a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 12 pancakes total. Batter thickens as it stands. Add part or all of remaining 1/4 c. milk to achieve desired batter consistency. I didn't do any of this paragraph except to make 12 pancakes and set them on a plate, but uncovered.

Yields 2 pancakes and 1 tablespoon syrup per serving.

I should mention by the way that Caleb told me several times in the morning that the pancakes were "excellent!" Later when I mentioned them on the phone to a friend, he interrupted me to tell me and the friend that they were "awesome!" So give 'em a try - you may like them too!

Fish and Chips - Weight Watchers

When Aaron and I used to travel for pleasure, we made a point of eating fish and chips at our various destinations. Fish and chips was the meal we had right before he proposed (aw!). Fish and chips was fantastic in Dublin too. The first meal we had in Victoria was fish and chips (I'm sure Aaron will correct the record if necessary). We had fish and chips in Nova Scotia, possibly more than once. I don't remember having fish and chips in Paris or Mexico, but I would be surprised if we had skipped it in London. Anyway, we like fish and chips.

Fish and chips, the traditional way, is a greasy dish. It is delicious, and the grease is part of the yumminess. The grease is obviously not a healthful choice. I was quite excited to see this recipe in my Weight Watchers book this week.

Fish and Chips - from Weight Watchers
4 sprays olive oil cooking spray (yeah, I don't really count/measure those)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (I didn't peel)
1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or more to taste
1/4 c. fat-free milk (I used 1%)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (I used spicy deli mustard)
1/2 c. seasoned dried bread crumbs (I used whole wheat panko)
1/4 c. all-purpose flour (I think I used white whole wheat)
20 oz. uncooked cod, four 5 oz. fillets
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (I skipped it)

Preheat oven to 400. Coat 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray. Place potato wedges on one baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray (I skipped the coating). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes.

Whisk milk and mustard together in a shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish/plate and put flour in a third shallow dish. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in flour and turn to coat. Place fish in milk mixture and turn to coat. Place fish in bread crumbs and turn to coat. Transfer fish to second prepared baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray.
(I skipped the coating) Bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10-15 minutes. Serve fish and potato wedges with vinegar on the side.

Meal Plan - Belated

On Thursday or Friday of last week, we made a meal plan for our dinners. Here goes:

Friday: Shabbat dinner (fish, green, rice, challah). We ended up with salmon steaks, a veritable cornucopia of vegetables (kale, grilled zucc/summer squash, corn, green beans), brown rice, and challah.

Saturday: We were invited to our neighbors' house for dinner. It was delish! Tandoori chicken, cucumber salad (must get this recipe!), and my memory fails me on the rest. I brought over a peach cobbler.

Sunday: Aaron grilled up more chicken. I made an orange cilantro quinoa saute which I liked a lot, but Aaron was not sure about. Neither kid liked it. Oh well, I will keep looking for quinoa recipes.

Monday: Fish and chips courtesy of a Weight Watchers recipe. This was REALLY good. Ketchup saved the day for the kids, but Aaron and I enjoyed it straight. I also served up a side of steamed green beans from the CSA box.

Tuesday: Pasta night. I have my cake decorating class, so we're keeping it simple. I'm not sure yet what the pasta dish will be or what we may serve with it.

Wednesday: Pizza for the kids; "special dinner" for me and Aaron. Wednesday is my weigh-in night, so Aaron and I get take-out (Thai or pizza) after the kids' bedtime. I like to have one night when I eat not healthfully and then I start fresh with my healthy eating the next day.

Thursday: This will probably be a leftover night, but I'd like to focus on vegetables too.

I hope you have a yummy week!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Garden Update - Good and Bad News

First the good news:
Last night we harvested our first cucumbers (4!), our first red tomato, and our volunteer squash (i.e., we didn't plan for it to be there but it worked out).

Now the bad news:
The squash bed has not worked out and we have been digging up the dead plants. I think 2 things happened - first, I think that we had all male flowers and no (or not enough) females. Supportive as I am of same-sex marriage, it doesn't work out well in a vegetable garden. :P The second thing that may have happened is a squash borer population (nasty moth larvae that eats the stems from the inside out). Grf. No pumpkins this year. In theory we could re-plant the other squash, but I'm too grumpy to re-plant. Aaron has suggested planting kale, but again my grumpiness needs to pass first. I've given him a green light to plant as he sees fit.

In additional bad news, I fear we may have tomatoes with blight. Check out the second picture of last night's small harvest.

What do you think of the tomato now? Last summer loads of people ended up with tomato blight and we totally lucked out with healthy beautiful and yummy tomatoes. The black spot has me worried. I thought blighted tomatoes looked healthy on the outside but crummy on the inside, but maybe I'm wrong and sometimes the blight is visible on the outside.

Back to the good news, aren't our cucumbers delightful? The first one on the left is enormous! The second one is ridiculously fat. The last two might be supermarket passable *smirk*. Did you know that supermarkets will reject perfectly edible produce solely based on shape of the fruit/vegetable? Our family cares less about shape and more about yumminess.

Off to figure out about our 'maters!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Caleb LOVES kale!

Summer eating is so delicious. Grilled meat and veggies, fresh veggies for salads, fresh in-season fruit (nom nom nom), bananas that won't last so I "have" to make bread (hee hee - not at all a local food, but we're not purists).

Caleb has discovered a great affection for kale. It feels like this new love may be a fleeting phase, but I can hope it will last at least through the season and that maybe just maybe he will stay open to trying this superbly healthy vegetable again next season.

This past Friday, we invited new friends over for dinner. We prepared our standard Friday night dinner of fish, green something, and rice. We offered challah as is our tradition (whole wheat Rosenfeld's - pure bliss). The wife is a vegetarian, so we had several vegetable sides - grilled zucchini and summer squash from the CSA, kale from farmers' market with carmelized onions and garlic, farmers' market corn (boiled in pot), beans from the garden (steamed). The husband mentioned that he never had found kale to be palatable. I suggested he could try ours, but I didn't mind if he didn't like it.

Guess what? Yeah, you guessed right. He totally liked it. Better yet, Caleb was super excited to eat kale. I think Caleb had seconds. So folks, if you have kale, try this way and see what you think:

1 bunch of kale (really the amount can be whatever you buy), remove stems
1 onion chopped (red or yellow; red is sweeter)
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (I buy this already minced in a large jar, and I'm sure fresh is yummier and would require less)
enough olive oil to saute onions, garlic and eventually the kale (maybe 1-2 Tbsp)
balsamic vinegar (maybe a Tbsp)

Saute onion in large pan/wok until it softens. Add minced garlic and continue cooking until onions nearly caramelize (brown). You'll stir a lot to prevent sticking and cook evenly. Add kale. Gently "toss" kale as it wilts/shrinks (maybe 3-4 minutes), mixing onions and garlic somewhat evenly. After the kale wilts, remove the pan from heat/turn off stove. Add a few splashes of the balsamic vinegar (I hear lemon juice also is nice) and stir. Serve warm.

To whomever reads this, this dish takes maybe 5 minutes plus the time it takes to chop an onion and separate the kale from its stems. And check out this link for some nutritional information about kale.

Bon appetit!

Belated Bean (and other garden) Update

I took forever in getting the bean pictures from my camera to computer and then to my photo sharing site. However, here is the quick update on our garden:

BEANS!! We like beans!!
We have loads and loads of pole beans. I have not been measuring our harvest in any real way, but we have not bothered buying beans from the farmers' market. According to Aaron (chief bean picker and counter - hee hee), we have harvested about 3 pounds so far. Maybe that doesn't sounds like a lot, but it's a huge improvement over last year's crop AND look at how pretty they are!

We have about 8 cucumbers ready for picking, and some are quite large - maybe up to a pound. Here's picture proof of one or two in progress.

I do not have photo evidence of these YET. Aaron counted about 55 tomatoes in varying stages of growth and/or readiness. Two fell off the vine and are ripening on our window sill. Another one is supposedly red on the vine as of this morning. Aaron also had to purchase more stakes as the plants were falling over.

Next up... a report on KALE!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Successful Vegetables!

And no, I don't mean our garden. I mean that my kids ate what I would call REAL vegetables tonight. In any given day/week, they happily eat pretty common vegetables like beans, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives (yes, I know the last three technically are fruit). But tonight, I am very proud to say that my children ate swiss chard and beets (not cooked together but as separate items).

Normally I make a tasty crustless swiss chard quiche when I have a bunch of chard. Tonight I didn't want to use the oven. It is what we Bostonians call "wicked hot," and you could not have paid me to turn on the oven. How I am going to bake a cake for my decorating class in this heat is a mystery. ANYWAY, Aaron tasked me with the mission of finding a way to use up the overabundance of beets and the remainder of the chard. I informed him that he would grill the beets, and I set off to find another use for chard.

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatoes

I wish I had taken my own pictures of it, but I really didn't know how it would do. I suppose I should get braver about potential flops. The big change I made to the recipe was doubling it, but I did not double the tomato. I sliced one medium tomato and then added a few slices from a second - maybe 1.25-1.5 tomatoes.

The beets don't really have a recipe. We had 3 varieties of them - 2 red varieties and 1 yellow/golden variety. I washed them, sliced them fairly thin (less than a half inch thick, I think), and told Aaron to add pepper and fresh rosemary when he went to grill them. He grilled them in foil for just under an hour.

Caleb had about half of an adult serving of the chard by the end of dinner. Ellie picked at it, but I saw her eating it. The winner for Ellie tonight was the grilled beets! I was delightedly shocked.
Ellie ate LOADS of beets, asking for more from our plates and the kitchen. Caleb wanted nothing to do with the beets, saying they were too sweet. I found this critique amusing since I assume other people dislike the bitterness of many vegetables. I also was amused since he didn't have a problem with the cranberry pumpkin bread today or the sugar cookie yesterday.

Amusement aside, I cannot find the words for my excitement that the kids ate and enjoyed vegetables. The adults also enjoyed the vegetables, so I have to give this dinner a 2 thumbs up and suggest you try it too!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Meals Eaten and Meals Planned

The weather has been getting rather ridiculously hot, so cooking has become less enjoyable. Well, at least cooking in the kitchen is less enjoyable. This past week gave Aaron the opportunity to prepare various grilled goodies. Here is what our weekend eating looked like.

Friday Dinner
Friday dinner is special to me and Aaron. We hope it will become special to our kids. We celebrate the start of the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat) at this meal. We have a fixed menu which seems to be reasonably successful for all of us.

Fish - this week we had baked rainbow trout with parsley, sage, rosemary, and no it did not have thyme because I was out of thyme. :P I added some black pepper though.

Green vegetable - we had our garden's first pole beans which are not quite green and not quite yellow. Aaron thinks they are yellow, but I know I planted both yellow and green. We also had kale with carmelized onions. It turns out that Caleb likes kale this year. I don't remember whether he likes this preparation of it last year.

Rice and challah - we eat brown rice, and the challah comes from Rosenfeld's Bagels usually. Sometimes we have Cheryl Ann's challah, but we all seem to like Rosenfeld's better.

Breakfast - The kids probably had instant oatmeal and/or yogurt. I *think* I made eggs for me and Aaron. Breakfasts in our house are extraordinarily repetitive and usually made to save time.

Lunch - Again struggling with my fuzzy memory, the kids likely had PB&J with some side of cucumbers and a fruit. I think this was the day I made a mighty fine tuna salad - tuna, lots of spicy mustard, some red onion, and frozen peas.

Dinner - Aaron grilled chicken from Chestnut Farms, seasoned with Montreal Chicken Spice. We also had grilled zucchini and summer squash and some fantastic focaccia from Natick's Bakery on the Common. The bread unsurprisingly got rave reviews from the kids. Caleb devoured the chicken and vetoed the summer squash. Ellie picked. After the kids went to bed, we enjoyed some homemade chocolate ice cream.

Breakfast - Aaron bought bagels from
Bakery on the Common, and we had lox, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes to add to the cream cheese. The kids had mixed reactions to all of the above. Caleb thought he would like the asiago cheese bagel (no), but in fact preferred the multigrain. Ellie thought she wanted cream cheese AND a bagel, but she probably would have preferred just the cream cheese. Both kids have loved lox in the past, but they seemed less in love with it this time.

Lunch - We spent our morning at the pond. The kids and the men ate lunch at the pond. This meant more PB&J. I also packed cucumber and carrot sticks, raspberries and blueberries. No food made it back to the house.

Dinner - Aaron prepared more yummy grillables! Chicken sausages from Trader Joe's and turkey burgers from BJ's. We also had some kale with carmelized onions (Aaron's favorite way of eating kale), and the last of our corn from the freezer. After dinner, we enjoyed making s'mores with some neighbors.

As I look over these meals, I don't think we're making anything terribly fancy or interesting. We probably give our kids entirely too much PB&J. And based on their lack of eating at the Indian restaurant today, I fear their palates may have forgotten how to eat well-spiced/seasoned foods.

Meals to Come
I mentioned in the previous post that we have to cook with beets this week. I'm sure we will have roasted beets since I know Aaron likes them, but I also know the kids are less enamored with that preparation. I'm going to do some more research on beet recipes to see if I can find something more palatable to my kids.

I also mentioned that we have much squash to consume. I fear I may have to bake enchiladas this week just to dispose of the beautiful fruits. Oven + 90 degree weather = yuck. I may do some more recipe reading to see what else the squash can do besides breads.

Surprisingly, the hardest CSA food for me to find a use for are the peas. My kids are hit or miss with them. I forget about them and they lose their yumminess then. Suggestions for snap peas are very welcome!

OK, I have cookies to bake for a class I'm taking, so I must sign off. Good eating to everyone!

Another Week - Another CSA box!

This week's box from Stillman's showed signs of summer's progress. We had fewer green leafy vegetables and the start of the squash harvest. Our bounty for this week:
  • 2 bunches of different varieties of kale
  • 2 heads of lettuce - red leaf and something in the plain green variety
  • 2 bunches of beets (the variety name escapes me)
  • 2 pounds of snap peas (NOM NOM NOM!!)
  • MANY zucchini and summer squash (some were pick your own)
  • a few cousa squash (look like smaller lighter green zucchini)
  • several cucumbers - slicers and picklers
  • 1 pint of blueberries
We happened to buy beets at the farmers' market this weekend with the intention of grilling them that night. We forgot. We now have an oversupply of beets. Aaron enjoys them roasted. I know the kids will eat them in risotto. My neighbor made a very tasty beet salad that I hope to try to make. We will get through the beets. Feel free to share your favorite recipes too!

Speaking of farmers' market, we bought LOTS of fresh fruit this week from Dan the Orchard Man as we like to call him. He is one of the farmers of Keown Orchards. From him, we bought raspberries, apricots, plums, and apples. I can't remember whether we also picked up blueberries there. We have had such great quantity of blueberries coming in that it is hard for me to remember their exact points of origin. Anyway, I am really happy to have local fresh fruit again. Caleb and Ellie have been whining for the fruit I set on the counter, so I don't expect it to last much longer. On the other hand, Ellie only acts like she wants food, so we may end up with masticated but not eaten fruit (blech).

I think my next post will be on meals eaten and those we intend to make.