Our garden grew wild this year.  Between the overload of responsibilities and excursions that spring demanded, not to mention an uncooperative back, it is actually surprising we even found time to thrust some plants in the ground.  But somehow, despite our lackluster efforts, the garden is producing heartily.  The other afternoon on a saunter through our beds I was shocked to find piles of peppers.  We planted a variety of sweet and hot that we found at our favorite plant sale. Each plant boasts a different flavor, color and shape.  The other night their abundance begged to be honored with a starring role in this dish. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cheesy Kale and Orzo

May 22, 2012

At nearly the age of four, our daughter sat in disbelief  in front of a bowl of mac and cheese served by a friend of ours.  “But it’s not green?”  She couldn’t fit the bowl of creamy goodness into her limited epicurean understanding of the world, mostly because her mother had apparently spent her ultra-formative years fooling her into thinking that all mac and cheese had pureed spinach or kale as an integral part.  But before you jump to conclusions and label me a crazy mom who withholds hard-earned icons of American childhood (probably no hot dogs or Oreos either!), consider that the addition of these rich greens actually makes the dish taste better (and triples the nutritional value of course)!  And not just to adults either, our kids prefer this as well.  Just look at the happy girl then and now! (But you are right about the Oreos, we have held back on those.  Perhaps you know of a fantastic recipe to make them at home and would like to share a link below!)

Cheesy Kale and Orzo is the next generation of mac and cheese at our dinner table.  It satisfies our kids’ desire for cheesy pasta, yet holds its own as a more sophisticated side for grilled salmon (our protein of choice these days).  The orzo cooks in the fashion of a risotto, so it has a chance to soak up the white wine and rich chicken broth.  Kale, steamed and blended fine, mixes in and colors the dish a deep green. Fresh cut chives and Parmesan add a bit more flavor and creaminess at the end.

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LIfe is busy, no matter what, but this week everything seemed to be in turbo-drive.  It was the kind of week that left me yearning for more quick meals.  Meals that take only minutes to prepare, but still contain enough substance and flavor intensity to make an impact.  More meals like this one.

Penne with Kale, Feta and Olives is no ho-hum vegetarian pasta dish.  Kale itself is a flavorful green, but combining it with the briny olives and pungent feta make this dish a powerhouse.  Parsley, garlic, and lemon zest scatter over the top adding even more dimension to this simple dish. The recipe entered our rotation a few years ago when it was featured in Bon Appetit.  Any kind of kale works here, but I prefer Dinosaur or Lacinto Kale.  I reduced the oil recommended in the original recipe.  Feel free to drizzle olive oil over the top if you so desire.

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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.

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