Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Recipes: Vegetarian Chili)

Ani said... I love the cooking pictures! I don't enjoy cooking all that much (although I LOVE to entertain - go figure!), so my recipe arsenal is pretty limited to tried and true dishes. We are lucky to have a wonderful nanny who is an amazing cook - but I would love some good (nutritious AND easy) recipes that are simple enough to allow our 3 year old in the kitchen as sous chef.Looking forward to this series!!!!
Dear Ani,
K & O started helping me make this recipe when they were 2 years old. Now they are practically pro's at it! I made it with them last week and they literally did everything. Everything! We all love this chili. It originated from a recipe from my mom, but I've altered it a lot over the years. It is our family's favorite chili -- we prefer it to any meat chili I've ever made. K & O love it and we discovered, this past week when we made it, that Little Miss loves it too!!! This chili freezes really, really well (and even us, who basically hate leftovers, love this chili as leftovers). Here it is~~

Vegetarian Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium zucchinis, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium onion, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 green peppers, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large (28 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes
2 (16 ounce) cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16 ounce) can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
1 (16 ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chili powder (more if you want more heat)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Heat up large pot. Add olive oil. Add the veggies and garlic. Stir occasionally until zucchini is slightly tender and onion is starting to become translucent. Add tomatoes, beans, and all the rest. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for at least one hour. Can cook longer for thicker chili.

Serve with any or all of the following:
Fresh Tortillas
Tortilla Chips
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream

Sliced Green Onion
Chopped Cilantro
Fresh Chopped Tomatoes

chopping up the veggies
opening all the cans with the electric can opener-- their favorite part!!!
Owen eats it burrito style! (by filling a fresh tortilla with the chili, cheese, and sour cream!)
Kyle eats it straight up! (with lots of cheese and sour cream stirred in!)... and asked to have more chili packed for his school lunch the next day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Meera Grace 10 Months Old

Meera Grace, 3/28/09, 8:04 AM

Well, this one is bitter sweet for me. In all honesty, mostly bitter (although she is absolutely all sweet). I'm just sad that the first year is disappearing so quickly. How can my newborn tiny infant suddenly be 10 months old? 10 months? A year ago I was pregnant and we were setting up the crib. How can we now be watching our girl getting ready to walk? As far as I'm concerned, this is getting way too close to the 1-year mark. Every day I wish I could freeze time. I don't remember feeling this way about Kyle and Owen. It wasn't that I wished away the time -- not at all -- but with them I have always been so incredibly curious what they'll grow up to be, and with them caregiving was always such incredibly hard work (simply because they were twins; and rambunctious "all Boy" twins at that). Of course I'm curious what will become of Meera Grace (she's an interesting case in and of herself), and of course taking care of her is hard work (caring for any baby is), but I just wish I could keep her my baby-baby-baby forever. 10 months seems like a big jump from 9 months. And this past month has seen such fast-paced development for our little one. It is all just moving way too fast and no matter how hard we try to slow it down, time slips away. And then it is gone forever. Which is why I am bitter. But then I look at her and the bitterness melts away immediately. Because seriously, you cannot be in the presence of this baby and feel anything but warm-fuzzies. At least I can't. Meera had a Well Baby doctor's visit on Thursday. She weighs 23 pounds and is 29.5 inches tall. That's the 90th percentile for weight and 95th for height. Like Braydon said, she seems to have the Swedish genes going strong and my Popop would be proud. And Meera would love Popop too, since she seems to love just about everyone. She goes willingly to strangers to be held, she smiles and waves at people she sees, and she loves to "talk" and interact with any of the kids at Kyle and Owen's school each day at pick-up. This month, however, for the first time, Meera showed her first signs of stranger anxiety. Three times she cried when random friends (different people/different times, but all male) tried to talk to her. Since she rarely cries (rarely), it was striking (yet right on track for her age and development). She's also figured out that she can get just about anything she wants from her big brothers, who will do just about anything they can to please her if she even wimpers or whines the tiniest, tiniest bit. Meera's favorite new trick is banging two object together. She's been doing it for the past 3 weeks or so, and getting a big kick out of it. That -- and standing -- are by far her favorite things to do. All she wants to do is stand. She shows absolutely no interest whatsoever in crawling (or even rolling over-- she still doesn't roll over!), despite our best efforts to encourage her interest in it, but she wants to stand up all the time. Just in the past week she has started to be able to not only stand holding on to something, but to 'walk' along it as well (coffee table, etc.). She still sleeps like a DREAM BABY. And we're still astounded, daily, that somehow we lucked out and got a DREAM BABY. How could we be so lucky??? This past month Meera has started to show some of her willfulness. We've always known, from the start, that it was there, but before it was very subtle and now it is coming out more often overtly -- especially around eating. She wants to eat what we are eating. Always. Period. She will eat baby food if she is hungry enough, but would much prefer whatever is on our plates. And if she isn't hungry enough she'll just go on a food strike, pursing her lips to keep her mouth shut tight, until we give in and give her something she can manage from our plates... which is more and more often. My guess is that by the end of this month she'll basically be eating all normal food and the baby food jars will be more-or-less obsolete. Her favorite food is now macaroni and cheese (oh no! now we have 3 of them!!!), and Kyle and Owen take great pride in knowing that their sister loves "The Bunny" (i.e., Annie's shells and cheddar) as much as they do. She also loves pasta of any kind, mashed potatoes, any/all bread, and cheese. And she's loving trying to drink out of a sippy cup (and getting pretty good at it too). Meera's relationship with Margie (the original, the best, Super Nanny) is very sweet and adorable. They hang out together like old friends. Meera talks and Margie listens. Margie talks and Meera listens (Spanish? no problem!). Margie cleans, Meera plays. Meera has her bottle, Margie has her tea. They have a whole routine going. They are best buds and it is so cute to see. Little Miss is quite the verbal little thing. Margie comments on it regularly to me -- telling me that she is way beyond her age where all things talking are concerned (I have no reference because K & O were just being exposed to English for the first time when they were Meera's age, so their speech development was not typical whatsoever). Meera says "hi"; "bye"; "hi kitty!", "all done!"; "bottle"; "baby"; "book"; "bunny" (her lovey); "no"; and... we think... maybe "Mama" too. She probably says other words too, these are just the ones that are immediately coming to my mind. Of course only we (and Margie) can make these things out... but still... she's talking up a storm. And babbling all day long. This month we got one of the boys' old high chairs down from the attic and put it in the kitchen. Meera likes being right in the center of everything, so this is working out well for her! She sits there while we get breakfast ready and cook dinner and lots of other times in-between when we're all gathered in the kitchen. She likes outings in the stroller, but prefers the backpack (loves the backpack). And she continues to adore (like, ridiculously, over-the-top adore) her wild and crazy brothers... who are always good for a good laugh... and who tickle her and play peek-a-boo with her and read books to her and run circles around her entertaining her with their antics. And she is very entertained. Laughing, smiling ear-to-ear, clapping... she loves every minute of every show (and the show just goes on and on and on). We have all these Baby Einstein videos from when K & O were babies, but Meera has built in entertainment so we have yet to even pull one off the shelf. She enjoys watching them do anything they are doing (puppet shows!? yay! riding the train!? yay! you name it, and if K & O do it, well, then, she loves it). Lately she is getting in on the action more and more as a semi-reciprocal sibling relationship begins to grow. They try to include Meera in some things now-- and if she can fit into the action while she's in her walker (i.e., relatively autonomous and safely stuck in something they can't pull her out of), then we watch and laugh as the three of them "play" together. I can only imagine the future. But I do know one thing about it: for as long as the five of us are all together in this world it is sure to be interesting. You can say whatever you want about our life, but there is truly no denying that there is never a dull moment. I cannot wait to see what Meera becomes. I am incredibly excited about what she is becoming. And so, despite the bitter... there is the sweet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Recipes: Spinach-Related Dinners)

Jen said... about the picture of Owen & Kyle sauteing (I have no idea how to spell that) baby spinach in garlic and olive oil--do you have a recipe that goes with the spinach, or do you just eat the spinach itself as a side dish? Thanks---I'm always looking for new things I can make w/spinach!
Dear Jen (and this is not my college roommate Jen, this is a different Jen that I have never met IRL but who I love and admire nonetheless): Since you are one of my favorite readers I am going to give you three spinach-related dinner meals that we LOVE and eat often in this house!!! You just won the spinach jackpot my friend! You can make these for some of your med school friends and talk about the importance of folate/vitaminB/folic acid! ;)
And Patricia (Patricia is a dear, dear, dear friend from grad school who we know IRL and love IRL)... The second recipe is for you my dear! :)
Our Favorite 'Meat & Potatoes' Dinner
I've mentioned that K & O are not meat-and-potatoes types. Braydon and I aren't really, either. But we do love a good meal like that from time to time. And this one is our absolute favorite. Pork is, by far, the boys' favorite meat. You need a grill for this, but if you don't have one, just bake the pork according to the directions on the package. The spinach that you saw K & O sauteeing was for this meal one night recently. And you can't forget the applesauce! You can use store-bought in a pinch, but this homemade version is super easy and quick... Braydon and I don't even want to have grilled pork unless we can have it with applesauce! We eat this in the fall and winter, and for us, it just isn't officially fall until we've eaten this dinner a couple of times. The four things -- the grilled pork, apple sauce, the fresh sauteed spinach, and the mashed potatoes -- just seem to go perfectly together (at least in my book they do!). Here you go (this should serve 4 adults) ~~

1 package of lean pork loin (you buy this, in vacuum-sealed plastic package, in the meat/butcher section; the one I buy has two pork loins in the package).
1 big container of fresh baby spinach (or at least 2 bags of it from the bagged salad area of the produce section)
potatoes (to make this super quick, I sometimes buy the microwavable bag of little/baby/new potatoes in the produce area)
dry rub BBQ seasoning (my favorite is Sticky Fingers)
olive oil
salt, pepper
butter, sour cream, milk -- or whatever you like to make mashed potatoes.
apples, peeled and cored and chopped
cinnamon and sugar

Grilled Pork: Preheat the grill. Prepare the pork by rubbing a generous amoung of the dry BBQ rub all over the pork loins. Place on grill. Grill until done. Let sit for a couple of minutes before you slice it to serve.

Sauteed Spinach: Heat up a wok or the largest saute pan you have to medium-high heat. Add about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, all of the spinach (it seems like a lot but it wilts down to almost nothing!), 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Keep the spinach moving in the wok/pan until just wilted (tender but still a little firm-- don't let it get too wilted or it isn't as yummy). Serve immediately!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: [you can do mashed potatoes any way you want, obviously... but here is my quick/easy weeknight-in-a-rush recipe for garlic mashed potatoes...] Follow directions on the bag of potatoes and microwave until done. In a small saute pan, heat up about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When butter is melted, add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook garlic until just barely cooked through (not too brown). Dump cooked potatoes into a serving bowl. Mash with potato masher. Stir in butter/olive oil/garlic mixture. Add milk until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (If you feel like splurging add a big dallop of sour cream and/or more butter). Serve immediately!

Apple Sauce: Place all of the chopped apples in a pan with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. [Note: the smaller the chunks of apples, the quicker this will take to cook]. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste (the J-M boys like lots of cinnamon and very little sugar). Cook over medium heat, stirring occassionally, until apples are broken down and the apple sauce has reached the desired consistency (the J-M boys like it mushy but still chunky). Serve warm with the pork.
Spinach Salad
This recipe comes from my mom and I don't know where it originated. I grew up eating it and have loved it my whole life. It remains a steady fav around here, especially in late fall and winter. K & O love it and Owen sometimes requests it ("the sweet dressing"). Serve it with crusty bread and white wine as a perfectly terrific dinner or a hearty lunch (I often serve this to guests because everyone loves it). Not much is better than this!

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs worchestershire sauce
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
-->Mix all together in jar and shake well.

fresh raw baby spinach
hard boiled eggs, chopped
bacon, fully cooked and chopped
grated sharp cheddar cheese
sliced fresh button mushrooms
red pepper, celery, and any other veggies you want to add
-->Toss all together, adding as much dressing as desired. Serve immediately.
Spinach & White Bean Pasta
This is a recipe I made up based on a pasta dish I used to love at one of our favorite restaurants when we lived in Charleston, SC. The restaurant was this wonderful little place called Celia's Porta Via. Even though the last time I ate at Celia's Porta Via was in 1995, we eat this pasta dish regularly around here -- especially in late winter and spring.
1 box penne
1-2 bags of fresh baby spinach (depending on how much you love spinach! we use 2 full bags)
1 can of white beans (cannellini beans/white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
red pepper flakes
good white wine
about 2/3 cup of chicken stock or chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to keep the recipe vegetarian)
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, pepper, dried oregano
fresh parsley, finely chopped
Fresh parmesan cheese

Cook penne in boiling, salted water. While penne is cooking, heat up large saute pan to medium-low heat and add about 1-2 tablespoons butter with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once butter is melted, add garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes (I usually add a small pinch; add as much as you want depending on how much spicy heat you like). Stir occasionally cooking until onion is translucent. Add about 1/2 cup of the wine, the chicken broth, and the lemon juice. Season generously with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add white beans, stir gently. Once beans are heated through and some of the wine mixture has cooked down, add a big handful of the fresh chopped parsley. Turn off heat and let sit. Meanwhile, when pasta is just one minute from being done, dump all of the spinach into the pot. Let cook for a minute (literally! just until the spinach is barely wilted in the pot of water and pasta). Drain pasta and spinach, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss pasta and spinach with the white bean mixture. If dry, add some of the cooking liquid and/or more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Recipes: Penne with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe)

Christina said... If you feel like sharing that penne/turkey sausage/broccoli rabe recipe, I'd be much obliged!
H. said... ...Also, can you share your recipe for the penne/turkey/broccoli rabe? It looks awesome! Thanks,Hope
Tiz said... Hello from sunny Australia! Loving your blog as always, there is nothing better than watching kids enjoy healthy food! I would like to second the request for the recipe of your Turkey, Broccoli, Pasta dish, it looks wonderful!! Thanks again, Tamsin
Penne with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

I made up this recipe based on a dish I ate at a restaurant called Ciao in Basking Ridge, NJ. Since I totally made this up I don't have precise measurements or anything, but here is what I do:

1 box penne (can use whole wheat or regular or whatever you like)
1 package of lean turkey sausage, sweet Italian style
1 big bunch of fresh broccoli rabe
olive oil
fresh garlic (about 2-3 cloves, chopped)
salt, pepper, dried oregano
fresh good quality parmesan cheese

Get big pot of water boiling. Place large saute pan over medium heat. While pan is heating up, remove sausage from casings and crumble into bite-sized pieces. Add some olive oil to the hot pan (maybe about 1 tablespoon). Add sausage and garlic to pan. Season with salt, pepper, oregano to taste. Stir occasionally until sausage is cooked through and fully crumbled. Meanwhile, add pasta to boiling water, seasoned with salt to taste. While sausage and pasta are cooking, chop up broccoli rabe into pieces about 2-3 inches long (I use the stems, leaves, crowns, and all). About 3-4 minutes before pasta is fully cooked, add broccoli rabe to the pot with the boiling pasta. Continue to boil until pasta is done al dente and broccoli rabe is just cooked through (tender, but still firm). Strain pasta and broccoli rabe from the water, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Mix together the pasta, broccoli rabe, and sausage mixture from the pan. If it seems too dry, add the 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and/or more olive oil. Serve with freshly grated parmesan. Yum!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Part IV)

lori said... I am impressed by the healthy and delicious looking foods you post on your blog. How do you do make it happen while both working and parenting 3? Do you have any tricks, techniques, or organizational skills you could pass along? Thanks for your great blog!
Heather said... Here's a question for you -- when do you plan and shop for your meals? Do you have a set routine? The planning is always a major challenge for us . . .HCP
Dear Lori & Heather and anyone else out there reading:
Are you MWC's? (Moms-With-Careers) If so, then you know how hard it is and you know how important being organized is.... If not, then you can probably imagine... so, please be sure to tell me what your tricks are too!!! I feel pretty much clueless about this virtually all the time!!! Having said that, I will say this: being organized is at least 75% of the battle. I seriously believe that. Now, I am not sure whether being organized matters so much because of its actual relevance and/or importance to the whole logistical operation, or whether being organized matters so much simply because of the mental health related side-effects (i.e., feeling in control of something that is utterly out of control; believing we're on top of it when we can never actually get on top of it; thinking that we have it covered when it is never truly covered)... but regardless... organization is key (at least for me). Key key key. And one thing I have going for me is that I can be (when I want to be) a super organized person. Thinking strategically comes naturally for me. And I'm always trying to improve on my system(s) and flex things as they need to be flexed (which is, alas, ALL THE TIME). My mom is also good at this kind of thing and she often helps me to tweak my system when she visits. Anyway... even though I'm pretty well organized, I do not have any secret recipes for making it all work. In fact, there are significant periods of time during which I feel like it is not working at all for me. We can be cruising right along, everything grooving and feeling like it is all holding together... and then... smack!--seemingly out of nowhere the whole thing crumbles and it feels like it will never come together again. It is a roller coaster of organization-(or perception thereof)-disorganization-(or perception thereof)-organization------ you get the idea; it just goes on and on like that. In regards to organizing our life where food/eating/meals/food-prep is concerned, I've tried tons of things. Tons of things. Right now here is where we stand...
Top Ten: Things That I'm Currently Doing That Seem To Make Me Feel At Least Somewhat Organized Where All-Things-Food Are Concerned~~
  1. I food shop once per week and try to avoid any/all food shopping whatsoever the rest of the time. I go to a big supermarket and buy what I can there. If I can't find it there, I don't get it. Every once in a while (like, maybe every 2-4 months) I stock up on things from a specialty/gourmet shop that I can't get at my regular big-name market.
  2. I keep a notepad and pen on the counter next to the fridge and we write down what is needed there. I spend some time organizing and polishing that list before I head to the store with it. I try hard to stick to the list.
  3. Currently I'm grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. I am sort of pondering what we'll have all the time, and thinking ahead to the next week of things that I'll want to make for dinners. I cook, and we eat, very seasonally. Sunday morning while I'm having my coffee I try to start writing out my food plans for the week and my shopping list. I take requests from Braydon, Kyle, and Owen. I always try to plan for one pasta meal each week, one fish/seafood meal per week, at least one vegetarian meal per week, and one meat meal per week. At 9:00 I put Meera down for her morning nap and then I'm immediately out the door to the store. [important note: I absolutely HATE HATE HATE that I have to sacrifice precious weekend time to grocery shop. HATE IT. Unfortunately, it is how it is working out right now and no matter how hard I've tried it seems to be the only halfway workable time to do it. So it goes.]
  4. I avoid, at all costs, food shopping with all three kids. I try to go alone whenever possible, and this is my preference, by far. Lately, however, I'm taking either Kyle or Owen with me because it gives them each some alone time with me (and the other with Braydon while they stay home for Meera's nap and do projects around the house).
  5. I have a "lunch station" in the kitchen. It is the counter area closest to the fridge. The lower cabinets store all of the lunch packaging stuff (the bento box systems, thermoses, lunch bags, napkins, water bottles, etc.). The drawers there contain zip loc baggies, saran wrap, clips, etc. The upper cabinets contain all non-perishable lunch stuff. Right there on the counter is where we keep our breads. So... when I make lunches each night it is relatively easy. Everything is literally right there (including the fridge), literally within an arm's reach. It cuts down on time tremendously.
  6. The "lunch station" also makes road-trip or picnic lunches easy on the weekends. I can easily and relatively painlessly put together lunches-(or snack)-to-go for us to eat in the car or at the park. This saves us a ton of time, fat/calories, and money on the weekends. [photo below of a typical weekend K & O lunch-to-go]
  7. I have a "Meera station" in the kitchen. A cupboard that is dedicated solely to her stuff, including her bottle system and all things baby-food related. We keep all of her non-perishable baby food in one basket on the counter. This makes Meera feeding easy. [it also makes packing up food-for-Meera easy when we're heading out to a restaurant or a friend's house]
  8. I already mentioned the "Snack Drawer" in a previous post.
  9. For dinners........ (the toughest)..... I've tried different things (like planning out menus for each day, not planning menus at all, and everything else in between)... and what is working for us is this: I plan ahead for a week's worth of meals and shop for the ingredients for them on Sunday. I try hard to be realistic and plan for quick/easy/healthy meals that we will actually want to eat and enjoy. Each week I have 3-5 solid dinners ready to go...
  10. ... carry over from 7 above... The other 2-4 nights we choose from the following options: a] order pizza to be delivered or some other kind of take-out (note: we do this on average once per week); b] have leftovers (note: we all -- K, O, H, and B -- truly hate leftovers and I wish it wasn't so, but it is, although I still try hard to make us eat leftovers whenever possible); c] have soup and bread and cheese for dinner (note: we've found some great organic high-quality canned soups that we like, I also make soup pretty often and always freeze the leftovers for easy re-heating); d] eat one of our staple stand-by meals (note: these include for K & O things like macaroni & cheese, tortellini or ravioli, etc. and for H & B these include things like egg-and-cheese-on-a-bagel, a big salad, sandwiches, etc.); e] my favorite----- GO OUT TO EAT.

Dear readers, please leave a comment here-- WHAT ARE YOUR TRICKS AND TIPS???????

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Part III)

Christina said... Do you have any secrets for instilling healthy eating habits in young ones?

Well, I guess like everything else, "healthy eating habits" is all relative... I know people who eat practically nothing but microwaved frozen food and drive-through take out! I know people who consider Lean Cuisine frozen dinners to be "health food." I know people who have never eaten hummus (gads!!!!)! And I notice what other people have in their carts every time I'm at the grocery store (I am a sociologist; I can't help but to be looking at stuff like that). But we also are part of a pretty hard-core Waldorf community-- so... we also know people who are on macrobiotic diets; people raising children in strict vegan households; all-100%-organic families; and parents who will do just about anything to avoid letting their kids eat processed sugars/white flour/eggs that aren't from free-range chickens. While we definitely don't consider Happy Meals a perfectly decent well balanced dinner option for our kids, we definitely have no problem giving them store-bought cookies (and I've never made them a birthday cake from scratch, ever; store-bought b-day cakes all the way!)... Most of all, we definitely do not consider ourselves experts in this kid-food-healthy-eating area. At the same time, we are pretty comfortable with how our kids' eating habits are developing. So, we discussed it together tonight, and for what it is worth, (whatever it is worth!!!), here is a brand new Top Ten List we just came up with for our readership's reading pleasure!!!!

Top Ten: Things We Think We're Doing That Might Possibly Be Contributing To Instilling Healthy Eating Habits In Our Young Ones~~~

  1. We try to eat meals together, sitting down at the table, whenever humanly possible. We manage to pull this off miraculously often (given our work-home-imbalance-situation!) and eat together almost all of the time (with the exception of weekday lunches, of course, which we almost never have together since the boys are at school and we are at work). And when we do sit down to eat together, we eat the same things we're serving our children at mealtime whenever possible, which is almost always.
  2. We light candles and say grace (holding hands) at the start of every meal. This signals something special and reverent is going on. We act sincerely grateful for the food that we have.... every single meal. During meals we try to have real conversations. During dinner we do 'Hi/Lo' every night (i.e., we go around the table and we each say the 'high' and the 'low' of our day). We try to all sit at the table until everyone is done eating, and then the boys snuff out the candles... signaling the end of the meal.
  3. We very rarely have dessert. We act as if this is normal. When we do have dessert we do not make a huge deal of it. We don't treat sweets as a super-special-big-huge-deal-treat. What we do treat as a special-deal-treat is going out to eat. Even though we eat out at least once per week (usually Saturday or Sunday lunch), we always act like it is special to eat in a restaurant and that we're very lucky to be able to do that whenever we do.
  4. We force ourselves to eat a healthy breakfast with our kids every morning (I say 'force ourselves' because neither of us -- H especially -- are breakfast people and we'd much prefer to skip it altogether most mornings).
  5. We've never 'dumbed down' our food for our kids. We assume they'll have sophisticated palates and enjoy the kinds of things that we do. We assume that they'll like spicy salsa (not mild); al dente pasta (not mushy); blackened fish (not plain fish); and all sorts of foods/textures/flavors. You get the idea.
  6. We try to model healthy eating in front of our children. If we're going to do something really naughty (such as have martinis, peanuts, and chocolate for dinner like we did the other night), we be sure that the kiddos are sleeping soundly upstairs in bed before we indulge in such guilty pleasures.
  7. We always have fresh fruit sitting out on the counter. And we regularly put in front of them heaping platters of cut up fresh fruits and/or raw veggies and simply assume they'll eat it. We don't talk about it. We don't go on and on about it. We just act like it is perfectly normal to eat like that.
  8. We've always given our kids plain water to drink in between meals and often as the drink on the table for lunch and/or dinner. They like water and drink lots of it. Most of the time they don't even think to ask for something else. And we (B & H) rarely have anything other than water in our glasses at mealtime.
  9. We always assume that they like just about everything (even if the last time they tried it they didn't like it). We keep putting foods in front of them over and over and over (even if they reject it often) and always act like maybe this time they'll like it. And then... voila!... at some point, eventually, they usually do. It took putting broccoli in front of them about 2,000 times before finally... ah ha!... they liked it. And now they eat broccoli all the time.
  10. We cook together whenever humanly possible.

~ ~ ~

So... What about all of you out there in the blogosphere reading this? What do you do to instill healthy eating habits in your kids? If you don't have kids, what do you plan to do when/if you do have kids someday? or (if you never plan to have kids) what do you think people who have kids should do? Or what did the folks who raised you do to instill good eating habits (or lack thereof!)??? Leave your thoughts here in the comments section!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Part II)

Jen Slavin said... I am in the process of organizing my recipes that aren't in cookbooks. I have clippings from magazines, written out on post-its, print outs from the Internet etc...I remember your amazing binders of recipes/meals and I'm wondering if you'd mind sharing how you organized them. Thanks! xo j
For those of you who don't know, Jen is my college roommate and one of my best friends in the whole wide world and one of those people who I hope hope hope to live near again someday. We both lived in Boston for a few years post-college, so we kinda got spoiled by living near each other IRL (not that college isn't real life, but in real life is just different... and it was awesome to be near her). Now we're on opposite sides of the country, although we oftentimes seem to be living parallel lives nonetheless. And we still have a blast whenever we get together. Gosh, I love love love her. Anyway...
Jen~~ my idea for the binders came from being inspired by something that my friend Stacey showed me. It was all of her grandmother's recipes, all neat and tidy in a 3-ring-binder. I loved it and got to thinking about doing something similar to organize all of my own recipes. Like you, I had clippings from magazines, print-outs from the internet, post-its, scraps of paper, etc., etc., etc. It was a total, total mess. What I came up with is what I have and what you've seen. It was one of my "Waiting Projects" (adoptive parents reading will know what I mean.... LOL!!!)... it was one of the many things I did to occupy myself during the months of waiting for Kyle and Owen to come home. That was about 5 years ago now, and I really wouldn't change anything about my 'system' because it is actually working really very well. Still, though, Jen, let me know what you come up with because I'm always trying to find ways to improve upon all of this. And anybody else who is reading~~ please let Jen and I know what you do to organize your recipes/menus/cookbooks (leave a comment here on this post).

So, I have two binders. One is for recipes. The other is for menu ideas. The recipe binder is organized by categories. I bought all the paper supplies at Staples. (click on any photo to enlarge)
Everything is in plastic sleeves (which is great for spills, drips, kitchen messes, etc.). I put all of the scraps of paper I had, and every recipe card, etc. into pages. Jen, note that the binder is open to your Dill Chicken recipe (on a "Colby" notepad piece of paper no less!)! We love that Dill Chicken -- I still remember the first time I ate that in your apartment in Brookline, sitting on the floor of your family room, watching Party of Five (and I've learned that you can use half the stick of butter and still have it taste d-lish!!!!!!!)! I think that is a very kid-friendly recipe. Everytime we have it for dinner, K & O call it "chicken and grass" (instead of chicken and dill)! LOL!
The Menus binder is much thinner, but is also organized by category. In there I have also included photos of great dinners I've made or dinner parties I've thrown that I want to remember. I add those in from time to time because it is the perfect (and really only!!!) place to put those sorts of photos! I also sometimes put in magazine clippings that aren't for recipes per se, but rather are for ideas (party ideas, serving ideas, etc.)
Within each category I have multiple sections. So, for example, in the "Soups & Salads" category I have soups, stews, crockpot dinners, salads, etc. Each has its own page. Again, everything is in plastic sleeves. Jen, note that the binder is open to the salad page (I know you love my salad dinners), and also note that the first salad on the list is your Fajita Salad recipe. I vividly remember the first time I had that salad too--- again, in your apartment in Brookline-- sitting at your kitchen table in your kitchen. It was so good! And I still love it so much! Anyway, so in the menus binder there are just lists of ideas. I don't include recipes there. It is just a go-to place for ideas when I'm drawing a blank on what to make for meals that week, or when I need to come up with something to make for a pot-luck, or when we're having company for dinner and I need to figure out what to serve. We also use it, sometimes, when we have visitors. I can give them the binder and ask them to pick something for dinner. Then we can go food shopping together, come back to the house, and make dinner together. This works really nicely and was, originally, actually the intent of this binder.

My big problem now is that I still have all these cookbooks in my kitchen. Somehow I need to get them organized so that I remember what is in there and so that I can easily find new recipes in there too. Any ideas????

Photos of the Day

Friday, March 20, 2009

Food Week Q & A (Part I)

Sarah and Tim said... I do have to ask however, the snack drawer... Do your boy's still eat their lunch and dinner? I have 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 year old girls. I love this idea, but think they may not eat their meals if we did this... I really want to though! I guess we could alway's try it out, and then stop, if it spoiled their meals...
Sarah, I should have mentioned this in my post... The Snack Drawer Rule (there is only one rule) is as follows: No more Snack Drawer after 4:00 p.m. I learned long ago to cut them off around 4:00. From that point on they can have only water (which they can also help themselves to anytime without asking). We eat dinner around 5:30-or-6:00ish. If they snack after 4:00 it does ruin their appetite for dinner. As far as the morning goes... basically it seems like no matter how many snacks they have in the morning their appetite for lunch is never ruined. There is only one exception to this and that is drinking too much juice -- if they drink too much juice right before a meal, it ruins their appetite for that meal regardless of whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At school they eat HUGE (I mean, huge!!!) "snacks" each day. It is part of the school (Waldorf Early Education) routine -- they make these snacks, together as a class, each day in their classrooms -- i.e., heaping bowls of hot oatmeal with raisins and syrup and milk stirred in; heaping bowls of rice topped with tahini sauce or soy sauce; freshly made wheat bread slathered with fresh farm churned butter; vegetable noodle soup; etc, etc, etc... and their teachers tell me that my boys eat a TON and will oftentimes request seconds or thirds (and sometimes even fourths; note: i have had to reassure their teachers that they do, indeed, eat a full breakfast each day). Apparently K & O have been known to set school-snack-eating-records. Anyway, because of this, I think they've become accustomed to eating a lot in the morning-- and their lunches almost always come home completely empty (see my School Lunch Post for reference as to how much food I'm packing for them). These boys, basically, just have huge appetites and high metabolisms, so we don't need to worry too much about monitoring their snacks. We pretty much let them eat whatever/whenever they want to eat. Along the same lines-- because of the 0% body fat thing they have going on, I really don't need to keep them clear from high-fat or high-calorie foods. Owen, in particular, loves sweets and, although we don't have much of that stuff around the house on a regular basis, when we do have it around I do not hold him back from eating it (see photo a couple photos down of Owen with a mongo-huge candy jawbreaker --- that was his prize possession there for awhile... of course, after a couple days he quickly lost interest in it and it has been sitting on the counter in a zip loc bag ever since). When MorMor comes to visit, for example, Owen will often eat cookies 24x7 (and still eat a decent supper). ;) I am a firm believer in not restricting too much (with the idea being that it will backlash if you do). Luckily, so far, it is working for us alright.

Ani said... is there anything they will NOT eat?
Ani, Oh yes, yes, yes, there is plenty they won't eat!!! Kyle really doesn't like much meat, actually. He could very easily be a vegetarian (but definitely not a vegan). Kyle also doesn't care for sweets (cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy,etc.), although he loves ice cream. Owen likes most meat, but refuses to eat it if it has "black marks" on it (i.e., grill searing marks), and makes us cut the "black marks" off. Which we do oblige (although it drives me crazy; I am the GRILL MASTER and I grill 12 months of the year and I take great pride in my searing techniques!). And sadly (this really bothers me), neither K nor O likes eggs. They used to love eggs (for awhile there, from the age that they were about 10 months old until they were about 14 months old, in an effort to increase their iron [they had serious iron deficiencies from their time in Haiti] I was scrambling them 2 eggs each every single morning), but around age 18 months they suddenly stopped eating eggs altogether and have refused to eat them ever since (there is actually a good reason for this-- in a nutshell... the daycare they went to served "scrambled eggs" once a week-- I put that in quotes because they were not what I would consider edible... and K & O apparently agreed with me because after a few months both of them united in a Major Act of Resistance and they flat out refused to eat the daycare eggs. Fortunately for them, the daycare staff gave in and eventually started serving the two of them cereal instead of the "eggs" on egg days... but unfortunately K & O's Daycare Induced Egg Fast has still yet to end (despite my valiant efforts every once in a while to tempt them with ridiculously delicious eggs of all varieties the only egg-related-food I can get them to eat is quiche [they love quiche]). Anyway, in terms of their pickiness or lack thereof... Actually, Braydon and I have a big disagreement over this. From my perspective, our boys are not adventurous enough (and too picky). From Braydon's perspective, our boys are very adventurous (and not picky at all). I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in between. A lot of my own vantage point on this stems from my own upbringing. I think that they should eat absolutely EVERYTHING/ANYTHING that is put in front of them. This is in large part because that is how I was raised--- I grew up living at a camp in the summer (my parents were Camp Directors), we ate our meals in the Dining Hall, and we ate whatever everybody else was eating, always, with absolutely no exceptions, ever. I grew up eating absolutely everything with very, very, very few exceptions and I also grew up being taught to be grateful for food. I became a very adventurous eater. I'll try just about anything (and have eaten some pretty crazy things in my time -- especially abroad -- and have often been told that I have a "stomach of steel" [something I've taken great pride in!]). Braydon, on the other hand, had an extremely limited palate when I first met him. His food horizons have been hugely expanded in the past 15 years! (to the point where he now rivals me -- and actually probably surpasses me] in his culinary adventuresomeness and openness). For us, this is a 'spice of life' thing and it is important to us that K & O appreciate food--- all kinds of food. When we travel we try to get them to experiment with the authentic local cuisine, just like we do, and that is a big part of travel for us. Although they will try just about anything, they often won't eat unfamiliar foods in large quantities (and they need large quantities in order to function). Owen is much more out-going with food than Kyle, but still, they are both really only big eaters with the foods they are used to. A good example is this~~~ at home we do not eat very 'traditional' middle-America 'meat and potatoes' meals very often. So, this is very unfamiliar to them. Thus, often, when we're eating at other people's houses (friends, family, etc.) K & O have trouble eating what is served. They are pretty much totally unaccustomed to eating that way. While they will usually try what is put in front of them, they won't eat it with gusto (and will often refuse to clear their plates). For me, this is frustrating. For Braydon, it just is to be expected. In general, we don't push the issue and we just try to be as polite as humanly possible to our hosts. On the other hand, bring them to Chinatown or an Indian Buffet or a beachside seafood grill or a Burrito Stand or an Italian Bistro and they'll find plenty to chow down on! But this is all just to say--- yes, there is plenty that they don't eat... it just isn't necessarily the typical stuff that you'd expect (stereotypically at least) from two upper-middle-class boys being raised by white folks in suburban Pennsylvania (i.e., they will not eat meatloaf; they will not eat cheeseburgers; they will not eat fish sticks). My hope is that by the time they are teenagers they'll appreciate all sorts of food... even meatloaf and fish sticks!
Nadia said... have you ever tried pea butter..it's supposed to be more similar to peanut butter but made with peas!
Nadia, Nope, I can't say that I have tried pea butter! I'll look for it! Thanks for the tip!
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Jess said... Would you please pack my lunches? I can provide self-addressed stamped envelopes.
Jess, Sorry, but the answer is: no, I cannot pack your lunches… even if you do provide self-addressed stamped envelopes. I’ve got my hands MORE than full here! Although, now that I think of it, if I ever quit my job maybe I could try that instead: a lunch-packing business?!!! ;)
Malia'sMama said... Oh great, I see the drinks and now I want a MIMOSA! If I manage to get one of Mal's tutus around my thigh, can you make me one- AND a fancy snack? :)
MM, Come to think of it, I'd like a mimosa right now too. So, you can count on it- if we ever meet in real life then I will definitely make you a mimosa and a fancy snack—and we can both wear our kids’ tutus around our thighs while we indulge in the fancy schmanciest of snacks and drinks!
Laurie said... Hey Heather...we have the Bento boxes also and love them! I must say you are a bit more creative than I am in what gets packed. Do you have the insulated cases for them? Instead of the plastic water bottles that came with the boxes I put a Horizon Organic milk box on the side. They fit perfectly!
Laurie, Yes, we have the insulated cases for them, and I love the whole system except for the water bottles that came with (ours broke almost immediately -- K & O are very rough on stuff, but still... I thought those water bottles were particularly junky). Anyhoo-- yes, I've too found things that fit perfectly in the little drink slots! I've used the Horizon milk boxes too! As well as Welch's juice bottles and 'Balance Water for Children' water bottles --- I bought a six-pack of each of those at the start of the school year and have been re-using the same 12 plastic bottles ever since. With very rare exceptions, however, K & O get only water with their lunches. Every once in a while they'll get a milk or a juice-- but that is a big treat. I pack them water because they eat their lunch better if they have only water to go with it. If I pack juice or milk they'll just chug that first and then not eat much of their lunches.
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Kristen said... Where did you find those great lunchboxes!?!
Kristen, They are Laptop Lunch Systems. You can find them at: www.laptoplunches.com/products.html
Lori said... Will one of the posts be about STARBUCKS CARAMEL MACCHIATO ICE CREAM?????? ha! xoxoxlori
Lori, No, since I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet. To be honest, I'm sort of avoiding that opportunity altogether since I'm worried what will happen if I do try it. Given what happened when I tried the LORI'S STYLE UPSIDE DOWN STARBUCKS CARAMEL MACCHIATO.... well.... you know the story.... the rest is history. Like I've said, THANKS FOR NOTHING GIRLFRIEND!!!!!!!!!! You can serve me the ice cream the next time we're at your house... in the meantime... I'm in a stand-off with the stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;)