May 13, 2012
Sonoma County may be a culinary destination for other reasons, but in my family we are most grateful for the abundance of fantastic taquerias. Within walking distance of our house there are many places to enjoy a tasty taco, crunchy tostada or a big @#* burrito. Our kids share our love of Mexican food (which is a family requirement along with love of pizza). They generally gravitate towards a simple bean and cheese burrito with a Horchata to wash it down. My husband and I recently discussed that we need to branch out a bit, or our children will think that every restaurant features the cuisine of Mexico!
Horchata is a sweetened rice drink infused with just enough cinnamon to make it interesting. It is served cold, over ice, and is the perfect balance to a hot and spicy meal. Given that we often make our own Mexican-inspired food at home, we decided it was time to make horchata as well. After researching several recipes, I settled on one adapted by David Lebovitz. It is so incredibly simple that I have happily made it many times already. Long grain white rice is ground into a powder and soaked with cinnamon over night. The bits are then strained out and the liquid sweetened and mixed with milk. Done. I love that by making it at home, I can control the amount of sugar that is in the drink. Our kids love it and so do we. According to myth, this drink is also quite the hangover cure, though I can not personally confirm that. Horchata is a refreshing drink for any spring or summer day.
April 17, 2012
Day by day, our children are taking over our lives with a force that eclipses their small stature. First was the living room, invading the space with a pulsing tide of toys other detritus. Slowly their influence oozed into our music, favoring 90’s grunge rock for no explicable reason. The most recent conquest was the meal plan. Though they are both enthusiastic eaters of most dishes I serve, they now each direct the selection of one dinner a week. What seemed benign at first quickly spiraled into many successive nights of pesto pasta, hamburgers, and spaghetti and meatballs. My kids, who would eat anything, had a very short list of items they would actually request. Luckily with some gentle encouragement, they happily incorporated some new meal variations that keep them (and their parents) satisfied.
Baked Chicken Flautas are crispy, crunchy flour tortillas wrapped around a moist, mildly spiced bean and chicken filling. They hit on all of my children’s favorite notes: finger foods, beans, cheese. They are tasty enough to appeal to the adult set as well. Whip up some Chipotle Salsa for a dip to make these flutes really sing. Feel free to change the filling around. Not a fan of beans? Leave them out and increase the chicken. What to make them vegetarian? Omit the chicken and add crumbled tofu or corn to the mix. Really, anything you would throw in a taco can be rolled up in these tortillas and baked. We ate these for dinner, but they would be great as a party appetizer as well! So, how about you? What are the family pleasing meals that grace your table?
December 1, 2011
The holidays are upon us. Anticipating a busy couple of weeks, we have transformed our home into a full-fledged Christmas scene. The tree is up, Santa Lucia is perched on the buffet, and the winter mugs in the morning coffee rotation. While trying to convince the over-eager children that it is too early to start hanging ornaments on the advent calendar (whose idea was it anyway to decorate for Christmas in November?), we have been brainstorming ideas for edible holiday gifts.
I love making edible gifts for just about any occasion. Cooking for others is a way to treat those we appreciate with a delicious treat and share a bit of ourselves in the process. It is best to plan ahead and start cooking early so that the making and giving does not become a stressful burden. Riding the food hangover following Thanksgiving, our first foodie gift to make was Cranberry Cashew Granola Bars.
These granola bars are just sweet enough to count as a treat, but full of wholesome ingredients so they are also right at home in your little one’s school lunch bag. The bars hold together pretty well, better than other granola bars I have tried. Any crumbly bits taste tremendous sprinkled atop yogurt and fruit for breakfast. Feel free to change up the types of nuts and dried fruit, just be sure to use equal quantities. If you are using roasted nuts or toasted wheat germ, do not toast them again in the oven, instead add those items to the bowl with the cranberries.
October 23, 2011
Nothing says fall like winter squash… and apples… and walnuts, so clearly this is the perfect side dish to make NOW. We are big fans of butternut squash around here, check out the Butternut and Black Bean Salad from last year. This year though, somehow butternut squash never made it into the ground and we are the happily storing quite a few acorn squashes that took their place in the planting beds. There are lots of fun ways to cook up these beautiful treats, but my favorite is to make Acorn Squash Rings with Apple Glaze.
Take care in slicing the squash, as that is as good a way as any to loose a finger. It helps to take a small slice off of one side, then place the cut side down. That will give the squash some stability as you hack into it. Scoop out the membrane and seeds and they are ready to steam. Do not forget to try on some squash glasses for size! Note: at least with my kids, they are more likely to eat the veggies if they have a hand in making/playing with them! (For more ideas on getting kids to eat their veggies check out this post.)
This recipe is not mine and if you look you will find many versions on the web. While that may be a turn-off to some, I say it is evidence of a great recipe that is worth sharing. My version uses non-clarified butter and less of it, but otherwise it is basically the same. The tender squash soaks in the sweet and tangy apple glaze and the candied walnuts add a pleasant crunch. These rings look beautiful on the plate, making it great for a weeknight dinner or special enough for a holiday. My mother-in-law first introduced me to this yummy dish with asparagus laced through the centers of the rings (as you will find is the most common version.) I opted not to include the asparagus this time (there is no chance of finding local asparagus in October), but love the way they make this into a truly elegant side dish. If we have any squash leftover in springtime, I will definitely add them in. The acorn squash rings are attractive enough to stand on their own, or fill the centers with a scoop of wild rice or stuffing.
July 24, 2011
Yes, it is true, my kids eat their vegetables. No, not every vegetable, every time, but they do eat them and what is more they like them. They even ask for them. So you do not peg my family and sweet little munchkins as social and culinary oddities, I thought I would let you in on a couple of tricks that I am convinced have helped me to raise two kids who are not afraid of vegetables.
1. Serve different kinds of vegetables, often.
Though there are certain vegetables that my kids will almost always eat (sweet peas, cucumbers, broccoli), I am careful to serve other types of vegetables frequently as well. I find that the more I mix of the types of veggies and the way I prepare them, the more likely they are to try different tastes. Though I never force them to eat anything, I do encourage them to try a bite. For the most part, I ignore them if they say they do not like something. What they do not like on a certain day, they may love the next. Keep at it.
2. Eat vegetables yourself and let them see you.
As a general rule, I figure I should be eating more vegetables than my kids, if I expect them to eat veggies at all. I pile on the salads and extra servings of vegetables and make sure they notice.
3. Catch them when they are hungry.
There is little chance my kids (or anyone else’s for that matter) are going to eat a pile of broccoli, when they have already consumed two bowls of mac and cheese or another preferable kid food. In the hour before dinner when my son is loitering in the kitchen complaining that he is “starving”, I like to put out a big plate of fresh raw veggies. Both he and my daughter will polish off surprisingly large servings of carrots, cucumbers, peas, broccoli, celery, etc. as they are waiting for dinner. After that, I do not worry too much if they happen to pick at their dinner vegetables.
4. Let them pick which vegetable to buy or cook.
When kids have the choice of which vegetable to eat, they are in control and may be more likely to actually eat it. Often at the farmers’ market or grocery store, I allow each child to pick out a vegetable. Often they surprise me with their choices (cauliflower, jicama), but almost without fail, they will gobble up their selection.
5. Vegetables should taste good.
Take the time to serve fresh, seasonal vegetables raw or cooked in a way that fits that food. Vegetables should taste delicious, just as the other parts of the meal should. Taste it, if it tastes good to you, it probably will to them as well. If the vegetable is overcooked or underseasoned, you cannot really blame your kids for not eating it.
Green and Brown Spaghetti is my kids
only favorite way to eat zucchini. As any gardener knows, there is never a shortage of zucchini in the summertime. When recently both kids announced that they did not like zucchini (or ma-chini as my daughter calls it) I knew it was time to break out this favorite from last season. In this recipe, the zucchini is cut very long and thin to resemble spaghetti. I picked up the technique from Smitten Kitchen last year. Instead of cooking the zucchini, the hot cooked pasta is simply drained over the zucchini in a colander. The zucchini becomes just slightly tender, while still maintaining a good bite. Tossed with a bit of fresh pesto, it is a huge hit with our kids, but is certainly not a “kid food.” You can be proud to serve this to hungry eaters (and veggie-phobes) of all ages.