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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Carnitas could easily claim their spot as my favorite food, especially when smothered in smokey, tangy tomatillo salsa.  These “little meats” came late into my life, but over the last few years I have experimented with different methods of preparing them including on the stove top, in the oven, and most recently in the slow cooker. The slow cooker, as the name of this post suggests, is the easiest method by far.

Every busy household should have a slow cooker.  During the school year, I rely on our slow cooker to have a hot dinner ready for us after my long day of work and my kids’ long day at school (especially on Mondays!).  For the longest time though, I made the mistake of thinking that slow cookers are  best used in the cool season months.  I used it primarily for soups and stews, the kind of food we crave to warm us up in the winter.  Recently though, I discovered that it is just as useful in the summertime to prepare dinner in the morning and have it cook all day. It does not even heat up the house, like the stove or oven would.

With dinner in the slow cooker, my family and I can head out on an adventure and not worry about having to be back to cook dinner for our nearly insatiable children.  This worked out perfectly last weekend when we returned from a day on the river, hungry and wiped out from the sun and water, to find perfectly cooked carnitas waiting for us.  I chopped up some cabbage for a slaw, warmed some tortillas, and dinner was served.

World’s Easiest Carnitas contains only five ingredients: pork shoulder, onion, salt, pepper, and oregano.  You do not even need to add water.  Just dice the pork, toss it in the spices, and place it in the slow cooker.  The heat renders the fat from the pork and allows the meat to cook in its own lard.  The top of the meat chunks that are exposed caramelize and brown beautifully.  If you prefer to add other seasonings you certainly can.  This method really highlights the taste of the pork, which I happen to like.  These carnitas are more of the shredded pork variety than the super crispy nibble variety.  If you prefer yours super crispy, brown them off in the oven just before serving.  Serve carnitas with tortillas and grilled tomatillo salsa.

World’s Easiest Carnitas

adapted from Bon Appetit

serves 4

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons oregano

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

the garnish

corn tortillas

minced onion

cilantro

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

Toss the meat with the seasonings and place in the slow cooker.  Toss onion quarters on top.  Cover pot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Discard onion.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon and shred with your fingers.  Serve warm with warm tortillas, minced onion, cilantro, and Grilled Tomatillo Salsa.

Note:

If you prefer super crispy carnitas, remove meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and spread out on a baking sheet.  Roast in a 450 degree oven until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

inspired by Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday

makes 1 pint

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed

4 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno

1/4- 1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place whole tomatillos and jalapeno over a medium hot grill.  Grill, turning occasionally, until skin is blackened and beginning to split.  Remove from grill.  Place jalapeno in a plastic bag for 5 minutes or so to loosen the skin.  Peel and de-seed pepper.  Place tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and 1/4 cup water in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add more water if it seems too thick.  Taste and adjust salt to taste.

Here is a printer- friendly version of the recipes:

World’s Easiest Carnitas with Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

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Lest you think my family and I survive on berries and chocolate alone, I thought it was time to share an actual meal with you hungry readers.  Sure I know “people” who might on occasion settle in over a pile of brownies and call it dinner, but really, it is time to talk about real food, with protein and vegetables included.  This is the kind of food we should eat most of the time to make the indulgences of jam-piled pancakes and syrup-coated ice cream well deserved.

In truth, most of our summer meals resemble this one.   We have some lean grilled meat, seasoned up to our whim.  One the side is a pile of some kind of beautiful warm season veggie.  There may be some focaccia bread or rice, but more and more I find that we do not miss the starch when we leave it out.  In its place, I make a double portion of vegetables.  Yes, even the kids do not seem to notice this omission (I just make sure they get their piles of pasta on another night during the week).

Armenian Lamb Kebabs are very simple to prepare, yet just different enough to pass for something special if need arises.  They are perfectly seasoned to compliment the lamb without overpowering it. The Greek Salad is a fabulous side to the lamb, but it could be paired with any number of other meats.

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We are very serious about pizza in our house.  I could go on and on about how my father hates cheese, especially melted cheese,  and so I grew up in a poor, cheese-less house with an ever-present hunger for pizza.  Or I could tell you about how I was lucky enough to marry a man who not only loves pizza as much as I do, but whose parents actually own a pizza restaurant.  But no, I will not bore you with any more history, but you can see why pizza is now a mainstay of our diet.

For many years now, my husband  and I make pizza on Friday night.  When I became pregnant with my first child, we wondered- What if the child doesn’t take to pizza?  How will we cope?  So week after week through the pregnancy, I dutifully ate my pizza hoping to accustom our child to the flavors of our home.  Needless to say, it worked.  The first, and now second child, have both folded neatly into our end of the week routine.

Of course, good pizza is only as good as its dough.  My recipe binder records our history with pizza dough.  Following our pizza timeline, there is a progression of one dough recipe morphing into another, our trials and experiments with recipes from countless sources.  I am confident to say that the recipe that follows is excellent.  We have eaten it on a weekly basis for the last year.  The texture and flavor are outstanding.  In addition, the dough makes enough for 3 large pizzas.  We make the dough once and freeze two dough balls for use in future weeks.  We all agree, the dough is best after being frozen.  If time allows, make the batch and freeze all three dough balls.  Just remember to take them out of the freezer a few hours before you want to make your pizza.

Generally I make the dough and prep the toppings, then my husband tosses the dough while we all gather around to cheer.  The kids top the pizzas to their liking and off it goes into the oven.  One of the reasons we can get away with eating pizza every Friday is that we rarely make the same pizza twice.  I like to top the pizzas with whatever is fresh and seasonal.

The Roasted Asparagus Pizza is perfect for the late spring.  It is simple and light.  We just harvested an arm-load of leeks from the garden, so I sliced and sautéed them until they were soft.  Thinly sliced onions would also go well.  I roasted the asparagus in the oven before tossing it on the pizza.  Instead of a red sauce, the dough receives a generous brush of roasted garlic infused olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper.  A thin scattering of cheese binds the toppings.  All in all, this came to be a beautiful, light springy pizza.  Add a shake of pepper flakes if you like it spicy.

Our Favorite Pizza Dough

Makes enough for 3 10-inch pizzas

adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: You will need to start this dough the night before you wish to use it.  It freezes very well.  Consider making it well ahead, freezing it, and taking it out of the freezer a few hours before you want to use it.

the sponge

1 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup all-purpose flour

Mix together all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let sit 8 hours or overnight on the counter.

the dough

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 teaspoons salt

3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

6 cups (or more) all-purpose flour

Add water, salt, and yeast to the sponge.  Mix thoroughly with dough hook.  Add flour, one cup at a time, with mixer on low.  Continue to knead dough until it has formed a uniform elastic mass.  The dough should be soft and tacky, but not sticky.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly by hand to form a smooth ball.  Place ball in an oiled bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Chill dough for a total of six hours, kneading down the dough once it has doubled (2-3 hours).

1 1/2 hours before baking, take dough from refrigerator and set on the counter.  Knead dough gently and cut into 3 equal pieces.  (At this point I usually take 2 of the dough balls and place them each in a quart size freezer zipper bag.  I label and freeze them for next Friday’s pizza.)  Cover the dough balls you intend to bake off that day and let rest until almost doubled  (1-2 hours).

Preheat oven to 500 degrees 45 minutes before baking. Place a pizza stone in oven to preheat as well.  Cover a pizza peel (or large cutting board) with parchment paper.  Gently pull and flatten dough evenly to form a 10 inch circle.  Place dough round on the parchment paper.  Top as desired.  Slide pizza on parchment onto the pizza stone.  Bake 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the crust does not bend when you lift the edge of the pizza with the pizza peel.  Remove parchment paper after 5 minutes of cooking.  (The parchment can be used for the next pizza if you are making multiple.)  Place cooked pizza onto cooling rack immediately.  Allow to cool 2-3 minutes before cutting.  Slice pizza and serve.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Our Favorite Pizza Dough

Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

1/2 of a garlic bulb

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the tips off of  garlic bulb  (the pointy end, not the root end).  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Wrap the bulb in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cloves are soft.  Remove garlic from foil.  Squeeze garlic from each head into a small blender jar (a mason jar works well here, just attach the blade and base to the jar).  Blend with remaining olive oil.   Brush over pizza, then top as desired.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

Roasted Asparagus Pizza

makes 1 10-inch pizza

1 ball of Our Favorite Pizza Dough (1/3 of the recipe)

3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

10 spears asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths (about 2 cups)

1 cup thinly sliced leeks

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan or Asiago cheese

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (to add after pizza is removed from the oven)

red pepper flakes  (optional)

After you have roasted the garlic for the Roasted Garlic Sauce, turn up the oven to 500 degrees.  Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and cook at 500 degrees for 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, sauté sliced leeks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat.  Cook until leeks are very soft, but not brown.  Spread Roasted Garlic Sauce over a 10-inch round of Our Favorite Pizza Dough, be sure to spread all the way to the edge.  Top with cheese, leeks, and asparagus.  Grind pepper over the pizza and slide into the oven.  Bake 12-15 minutes until cheesy is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the crust does not bend when you lift the edge of the pizza with the pizza peel.  Place cooked pizza onto cooling rack immediately.  Top with oregano.  Allow to cool 2-3 minutes before cutting.  Slice pizza and serve.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Asparagus Pizza

This post was submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Breakfast Pizza

What a fabulous week it has been.  It is officially summer for me now.  After my 17 years of schooling and then 8 years of teaching high school science, the rhythm of the academic calendar is deeply rooted in my bones.  So even though the weather is unseasonably soggy and  gloomy, deep down inside I still know that- School’s…out for summer!!!   To make the upcoming break all that much more sweet, on my last day of school I found out that my Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart won the contest for the Best Dirt Cheap Dinner on food52.  What an incredible honor!  I am a huge fan of food52.  It is one of my go-t0 sites for great recipes and culinary inspiration from the many fabulous cooks that contribute to the site.  What a great way to start the summer and kick off my serious cooking and canning season!

As a celebratory meal, I made Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken.  I love how chicken is both a perfect special occasion meal, yet inexpensive and quick enough to be perfectly suited for a weeknight as well.  This particular recipe is a regular in our rotation.  It is easy to adapt by changing the herbs, I call for rosemary here, but you could also use thyme, oregano, basil, or forgo the herbs altogether and add a touch of curry paste to the garlic mixture instead.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken can be made with any pieces of chicken you prefer.  The original recipe calls for chicken thighs.  Since I often buy chickens whole and part them myself, I have always made it with a whole parted chicken.  When arranging the pieces in the pan, I put the breasts in the center and dark meat pieces around the outside.  All the pieces cook up perfectly!  Preparing this meal is incredibly simple.  Spread garlic paste over the chicken pieces and under the skin, then roast the chicken until the skin is browned and crackly, but the meat is super tender and moist.  The herbs perfume the meat and the lemon roasts and caramelizes lending a rich, lemony flavor.  Degrease the juices and reduce to make a flavorful sauce to pour over the sliced meat.  Dress it up or dress it down, this chicken is great for any occasion.

Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken

adapted from  Bill Devin at  Fine Cooking

via The 140 Best American Recipes by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens

Serves 6

the garlic paste

2 garlic cloves

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Mince garlic with a knife.  Sprinkle salt over the garlic and the flat blade of your knife to grind the garlic into a fine paste.  Transfer paste to a bowl.  Drizzle oil over paste slowly while whisking vigorously until mixture is uniform and emulsified.  (If it does not emulsify, do not worry.  The chicken will still turn out great.)

the chicken

1 5-pound chicken, parted

2 large lemons, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 bunch rosemary (6 4-inch pieces)

2 tablespoons white wine

freshly cracked black pepper

Rub the chicken pieces with the garlic paste thoroughly on both the outside and inside of the skin.   Cover and let chill 2 hours to overnight. The longer you let it chill, the more flavorful it will be.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set rack in the middle of the oven.

Using a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, lay lemon slices evenly over the bottom.  Arrange rosemary sprigs over the top of the lemon and chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the rosemary.  The breasts should be in the center since they cook the fastest.  Arrange the dark meat pieces around the outside.

Bake the chicken for 45 minutes or until the skin is browned and crisp and the meat is cooked thoroughly.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter and cover loosely with foil.  Strain any accumulated juices into a small saucepan.  Skim fat from the top.  Heat remaining juices over medium to create a simmer.  Add white wine and black pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce is reduced by 1/3.  Serve meat as whole pieces or sliced with the flavorful sauce.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken

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Thai Lettuce Wraps

May 26, 2011

The end of the school year is near, which always means my life, as a teacher, becomes temporarily overwhelmingly busy.  The good news is that in two weeks I will be off for the summer with nothing to do but play with the kiddos, work in the garden, and of course cook.  The canning jars are all nearly empty, taunting me with possibilities.  But right now, in between writing finals and grading the last of the lab notebooks, there is little time for much else.  Thank goodness for quick and easy meals that still make dinner seem like a special time of day.

In between all of the bread and the cake that we have been eating lately, I thought we needed to have at least one meal that lacks a substantial carb load. Thai Lettuce Wraps always satisfy on many levels. The combo of sweet, salty, and spicy is so completely delectable that it distracts from the fact that there is no bed of rice or noodles (of course you can add those if you choose).  They are super quick and budget friendly.  Let us not forget that they are also fun to eat!


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This month’s Charcutepalooza Challenge was meat grinding.  Oh, I really became excited about this one.  I recently picked up a meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen aide and have been tapping into the meat lover within making loads of sausage and meatballs.  You see, my grandfather was a butcher and though my father chose another career, he is a meat enthusiast.  I come from the kind of family that doesn’t consider a meal complete without some form of meat. (That would explain why I was nearly disowned during my 6 years exploring vegetarian and veganism.)  But back to meat grinding, it is so easy and the product is sensational!

Last year, we began purchasing pork by the half-hog from our fabulous young cousin who raises them for 4H.  There are so many reasons to buy fresh, local, conscientiously-raised meat, not least of which is that the quality is superb.  For this challenge, I ground a pork shoulder and made chorizo following Michael Ruhlman’s guidance in Charcuterie.  Though I have made a number of different types of sausage, chorizo is one of the most satisfying.  I think that is because I generally have a difficult time finding a chorizo that I can still put in my cart after I read the ingredient label.  The concept of using an entire animal is a good one, though it seems factory-based sausage companies have a different idea of what is suitable for consumption than most home cooks do.  This chorizo is  deeply flavored, full of completely recognizable fresh ingredients including lovingly raised meat, and is super lean.

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