What was cooked

I was right – I was overly ambitious in planning our meals for this past week.  Well, maybe that’s not quite right.  I just had to make some changes on the fly to accommodate a brunch play date, a much needed haircut for me (yay!), and some other things.  I ended up not making some things, but I’m pretty pleased that no food has gone to waste.  I hate it when food goes bad before I can cook it. Anyway, this is how things really went down.

Wednesday

  • Dinner for the boys – Cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries, avocado, fruit (Marcus did ok with his burger, Gavin hated his)
  • Our dinner – Shrimp burgers with chili mayo, sweet potato fries, salad (I had made a double batch of shrimp burgers from a recipe in The Beach House Cookbook a while back and popped extra patties into the freezer; I thawed them in the fridge during the day and they cooked up beautifully)
  • Extra – Picked apart a rotisserie chicken, saved the meat for soups this week, stored carcass in the freezer to make stock later)

Thursday

  • Dinner for the boys – Beef Stroganoff, veggies, fruit (forgot to buy beef, so they had the Chicken Tikka Masala that had been planned for later in the week; both of them loved it)
  • Our dinner – West African Spicy Peanut Soup served over some rice with a steamed veggie (great recipe that I will have to post at some point, went with steamed cauliflower tossed in garlic salt and white pepper)

Friday

  • Dinner for the boys – Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup (pretty good, very easy, but I would lessen the sesame oil next time; recipe here; Gavin liked his soup, Marcus only thought it was ok)
  • Our dinner – Spiced Crumbled with Peas, Guferati (Indian green beans), rice (I had to bail on this one entirely as the cooking times didn’t mesh with my spontaneously scheduled haircut; we ended up having Pan-Fried Trout with a Lemon-Butter-Chive Sauce, the Polenta with Beans & Vegetables that had been planned for later, and garlicky green beans)

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Buttermilk pancakes with all the fixin’s (scrapped these for a more ‘normal’ breakfast as we decided to entertain guests on Sunday)
  • Lunch – Waffle-grilled cheese sandwiches, leftover Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup (kids weren’t wild about the sandwiches, which basically are grilled cheeses squashed in your waffle maker)
  • Family dinner – Caramelized Catfish in a Claypot, Carrot & Bean Thread Noodle Soup, rice (everything came out great, will have to post recipes at some point; kids really enjoyed the food)
  • Extra – Make a batch of Polenta with Beans & Vegetables in the slow cooker, refrigerate for the next day (made this on Friday night instead; it was too runny for breakfast on Saturday, so I put it on the stove again and cooked it with more polenta to firm it up)
  • Extra – Prepped two pans of Overnight French Toast for Sunday morning

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Fried polenta cakes (using polenta from Saturday) with eggs over easy (scrapped this and instead had a brunch play date with friends and their three kids; on the menu – Overnight French Toast, scrambled eggs with chives, bacon, apple-maple chicken sausage, fruit salad)
  • Lunch – “Squashed” Pancakes with applesauce (we were too full from brunch and just skipped lunch)
  • Family dinner – Chicken chili with all the fixins, tortilla chips, salad (a family favorite; pulled a batch from the freezer so this one was easy peasy)
  • Extra – Make a batch of broccoli cheese soup (maybe with chicken added) (too wiped out to make this)

Monday

  • Breakfast – Fried polenta cakes (using polenta from Saturday) with eggs over easy (came out pretty well, but was not as tasty as polenta cakes made with broccoli and parmesan; will have to do that kind next time)
  • Dinner for the boys – Broccoli Cheese Soup, crackers, fruit (they had leftover West African Chicken Soup with rice instead; Marcus was a big fan, Gavin not so much)
  • Our dinner – Farfalle with Sausage, Cannellini Beans & Kale (why cook another meal when you have delicious leftovers – Caramelized Catfish in a Claypot and Carrot & Bean Thread Noodle Soup; I also cooked up some Asian-Style Brussels Sprouts from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook)

Tuesday

  • Dinner for the boys – Chicken Tikka Masala (going the emergency route with chicken hotdogs from Whole Foods, mac ‘n cheese, veggies, fruit)
  • Our dinner – Mapo Dofu, steamed veggie, brown rice (this one is getting bumped and we’re having the Farfalle with Sausage, Cannellini Beans & Kale planned for yesterday)

So not too bad, right?  I have to plan out next week’s meals tonight so that I have enough time tomorrow to work out, go to the Vietnamese grocery in a neighboring town, and then do the standard run to Harris Teeter and/or Whole Foods.  It really does feel like I’m constantly doing errands or work all of the time.  ‘Me time’ is always last on the list.  As the hubs says, being an adult really sucks sometimes.  Ha!

What’s cookin’?

I’m feeling a little crazy today and have set a really high bar for myself this week in terms of cooking.  I have Wednesdays off, which I use to go grocery shopping and to run errands, so my cooking week goes from Wednesday to Tuesday.  We also eat with dinner with our boys only during the weekend.  We get home too late during the week to eat together.  Anyway, check it out.

Wednesday

  • Dinner for the boys – Cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries, avocado, fruit (homemade burger patties and store-bought fries from freezer)
  • Our dinner – Shrimp burgers with chili mayo, sweet potato fries, salad – dinner for us (homemade burger patties and store-bought fries from freezer)

Thursday

  • Dinner for the boys – Beef Stroganoff (Annie’s pasta meal that our nanny can put together), veggies, fruit
  • Our dinner – West African Spicy Peanut Soup served over some rice with a steamed veggie

Friday

  • Dinner for the boys – Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup (first time I’m trying this recipe)
  • Our dinner – Spiced Crumbled with Peas, Guferati (Indian green beans), rice (the crumbles with peas is a recommended vegetarian Indian slow cooker recipe I’ve been meaning to try out; hopefully it’s good as there will be tons of leftovers to freeze)

Saturday

  • Breakfast – Buttermilk pancakes with all the fixin’s.  We usually do chocolate chip, coconut, peanut butter banana, plain banana, and blueberry.
  • Lunch – Waffle-grilled cheese sandwiches, soup
  • Family dinner – Catfish in a Claypot, Carrot & Bean Thread Noodle Soup (Vietnamese style!)
  • Extra – Make a batch of Polenta with Beans & Vegetables in the slow cooker, refrigerate for the next day

Sunday

  • Breakfast – Fried polenta cakes (using polenta from Saturday) with eggs over easy.  I’ll freeze lots of polenta patties for future use.
  • Lunch – “Squashed” Pancakes with applesauce (squashed pancakes = a mixture of hash browns and frozen squash, pretty tasty actually)
  • Family dinner – Chicken chili with all the fixins, tortilla chips, salad
  • Extra – Make a batch of broccoli cheese soup (maybe with chicken added) for Monday and the freezer

Monday

  • Dinner for the boys – Broccoli Cheese Soup, crackers, fruit
  • Our dinner – Farfalle with Sausage, Cannellini Beans & Kale

Tuesday

  • Dinner for the boys – Chicken Tikka Masala (using a store-bought simmer sauce)
  • Our dinner – Mapo Dofu, steamed veggie, brown rice

I think this may be overly ambitious, but we’ll see how it goes…

Miso happy!

Picky eating triumph tonight for our family dinner!  Marcus helped me make miso salmon, and he gobbled it up.  He also ate some zucchini that we broiled along with the salmon (without gagging!) and a plain brown rice onigiri.  Easy and fun to cook, and healthy to boot.  Booyah!

Cutting up some “zucchini moons.”

Painting the miso glaze on salmon and zucchini.

“Me so love miso salmon! And zucchini! And onigiri!”
(“And me so needs a haircut!”)

Sadly, Gavin was not as impressed.
(“Me so needs a haircut too…”)

Recipe below, with kid-friendly steps, based on a Cooking Light recipe that we’ve made for years now.


Miso Salmon

Ingredients

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 pound salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick, skin-on is fine)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch thick rounds or half-moons
Aluminum foil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Directions

1. Preheat broiler. Cover a shallow pan with aluminum foil.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl and have child stir well with a whisk.

3. Arrange salmon skin-side down in center of pan, then allow child to arrange zucchini around it. Have child “paint” the salmon and zucchini moons with the miso glaze.

4. Broil the salmon and zucchini for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting the fish and veggies twice more with the miso glaze.

5. Because you don’t use cooking spray, the salmon skin will stick to the aluminum. I use a thin spatula to slide the salmon right off of its skin and onto a platter. Sprinkle with chives and serve!

Chao Bo (Vietnamese Beef Porridge)

The hubs wasn’t home for dinner today so I made myself a pot of chao bo (Vietnamese beef porridge).  I usually go chicken, but decided to do beef this time.  I love chao.  Simple ingredients, easy to make, such comfort food.  I like the contrast in textures of the silky rice and chewy beef.  Bonus is that Gavin loved it, which is great since he’s been rejecting other meat dishes that I’ve tried on him.  Marcus didn’t want to try it.  Surprise, surprise.  That boy.

How I cooked it below (a few modifications to a Steamy Kitchen recipe).


Chao Bo (Vietnamese Beef Porridge)

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
½ pound ground beef (marinated in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and ½ teaspoon Chinese rice wine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch chunk ginger, peeled and sliced, slices pounded lightly with knife butt to release flavor
10 cups beef or chicken broth (water also would work)
1-½ tablespoons soy sauce
ground white pepper, to taste
minced scallions
chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Wash rice, drain and repeat until the water runs clear. Marinate the beef in the soy sauce, cornstarch, and rice wine for 10 minutes.

2. Heat large stockpot over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons cooking oil. When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and garlic. Fry until the beef is browned. Add the stock or water, ginger, soy sauce and rice. Turn the heat to high.  Once the liquid starts to boil, immediately turn the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust with more soy and pepper if needed.  Serve topped with scallions and cilantro.  Sriracha sauce is good too!

Crispity crunchity delicious!

Ok, so I apparently missed the bandwagon on crispy roasted chickpeas.  Everyone was doing it ages ago.  This isn’t surprising given that I often am behind the 8 ball.  I missed the kale chip bandwagon too, which was just as well since no one in our family ended up liking them.  Marcus ate some, but I think he only did it for the salt.  But I digress.

I somehow stumbled across crispy chickpeas on Steamy Kitchen and immediately decided to try them out on Marcus.  Marcus is a picky little fella, but he does love crunchy food.  Chips, croutons, nuts, pretzels, etc.  So long as the crunchy item is not a fruit or a vegetable, Marcus will eat it.  It’s too bad that most crunchy foods that fit that description (aside from nuts) just aren’t that good for you.  Then along come crispy chickpeas.  They’re crunchy, brown (why do kids love brown foods?), tasty, healthy, and easy to make!  The ingredients are ultra-simple: chickpeas, olive oil, salt, and spices.  You can get as creative as you want with the flavorings (see links above for suggestions), and you can go savory or sweet.  I decided to go simple savory for this first go-round.

Knowing that Marcus is more likely to eat things that he’s had a hand in making, I enlisted his help to make his after-school snack.  I have to say that it was a resounding success.  I thought the chickpeas were great.  More importantly, Marcus loved them.  I asked him how much he liked the “gobble gobble garbanzo beans,” and he said: “As big as a humongous truck because they’re so yummy and because I like them so much, Mama!”  He proceeded to eat three quarters of the batch, murmuring happily to himself as he crunched along.  After he finished the last one and licked his fingers clean, he announced, “I need to tell you one more thing about these.  I like spices.  I like salt.  And I like garbanzo beans.”  Hooray!

Mixing in the spices.


Cooling off the first chickpea to be eaten.  (Someone needs a haircut!)

Finishing up the last few bites.  (Can I please have those lashes?!)

So here’s the basic recipe, with kid-friendly steps noted.


Crispity Crunchity Chickpeas

Ingredients
One can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Olive oil
Salt
Spices

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Set up baking sheet in front of child and let him line it with paper towels.
  2. Pour chickpeas into a strainer and rinse them thoroughly.  Remove any of the thin skins that fall off.  Tap the strainer to get rid of as much water as you can.  Then let child pour the chickpeas onto the paper towel and spread them out with his hands.  Get another paper towel and let him use it to roll the beans around to thoroughly dry them.  Remove and discard any additional skins that fall off of the beans.
  3. Measure out a small amount of olive oil (we only needed about a teaspoon or so) and let the child pour it onto the chickpeas.  Let him roll the chickpeas around in the oil with his hands until they are thoroughly coated.  Then it’s hand-washing time after you pop the baking sheet into the oven.
  4. Roast the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes until they are golden brown and crunchy all the way through.  We had to roast ours for a good 45 minutes to get them all crunchy (but be careful not to burn them!).
  5. Pour the chickpeas into a big bowl (to help avoid burns) and let the child put in the spices.  We used salt, pepper, and Magic salt free seasoning.  Let the child mix the spices in, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Enjoy!

Picky eater extraordinaire

Marcus once was a chubby little bubby.  At his 15-month appointment, he weighed in at over 29 lbs (Gavin was about 2 lbs less at the same age, and he’s no skinny mini).  Marcus’ adorable little fat rolls were due in large part to his very healthy appetite. The boy would scarf everything from chicken parmigiana to bibimbap.  If we ate it, he would too.  In fact, he’d get downright ornery if we didn’t share.  It was so awesome to be parents of one of those kids that just eats and enjoys everything.  At least for a little while.

When Marcus hit the 18-month mark, he morphed into Mr. Independent Toddler.  He tried to exert his will with regard to just about everything although with varying degrees of success (given that we were bigger than him).  But food was one of the few areas where he was in the captain’s seat.  If he didn’t want to eat something, there was nothing we could do.  It was a rookie parenting mistake on our part to let him see how much that bothered us.  Marcus wielded his new found power of refusal like a light saber, cutting us to the quick and trimming off his delicious baby fat.  He refused new foods, he refused foods he’d eaten before, then he refused what once were favorite foods.  At one point, Marcus wouldn’t even eat macaroni and cheese (which I thought was the standby of picky eaters across America) and actually gagged on watermelon.  I mean, seriously.  Who gags on watermelon?  It got to the point where Marcus would only eat chicken, bananas, yogurt, string cheese, and sometimes rice.  He refused pasta, potatoes, all fruits other than bananas and sometimes the random kiwi, and all vegetables.  I started drinking heavily the day he refused to eat a banana.  (Well, I should’ve anyway.)

Supposedly picky eating is pretty common, but it certainly didn’t seem like it.  One friend claimed, as I watched her son happily gnawing on tomato wedges and other vitamin-filled vegetables, “Oh, my son is picky too!  He won’t eat . . . chicken.”  Um, chicken is just about the only thing my son will eat.  Around another friend’s son we had to spell out fruit names during mealtimes.  If we forgot and mentioned “blueberries” in conversation, he’d stop eating and demand instant fruit gratification.  “Please.  Shoot.  Me.” I would think.  And then there were the countless books, cookbooks, and blogs that I’d read whose authors all had kids that seemed naturally more open to trying and eating different foods.  I bet their kids never gagged on watermelon or thought that their mom was trying to poison them with macaroni and cheese.

Picky eating is like childbirth.  You have to go through it to understand it.  You can’t explain the pain of having a picky eater to someone who has never had one.  You can’t express the feelings of frustration, anger, depression, helplessness, and guilt that pummel you as you watch your child time and time again refuse to eat food that you’ve lovingly prepared for him, food that you know he would like if he would just try it, food that he needs for his body and mind to grow strong.  All you can do is give him a good multivitamin, try your best to expand his palate without treading on his precious independence or creating psychological problems for him down the road, and grit your teeth when faced with non-picky eaters and their lucky parents.

All that being said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  With Marcus turning 4 this November, it has been an incredibly long and dark tunnel, but I think we finally are nearing the other side.  After much trial and error (and we’ve tried just about everything under the sun), Marcus is trying and eating more foods, including veggies and fruits.  He gradually is expanding his palate at a rate that he’s comfortable with.  I think our success in helping Marcus overcome his food phobia is due in large part to two things:

  1. Having Marcus attend a preschool where he eats a school-provided breakfast and lunch with his peers.  It’s nice to be able to control what goes into your kid’s lunchbox, but that’s useless if your kid doesn’t ever eat it.  Marcus is more likely to try a new food if all of his friends are eating the exact same thing.
  2. Cooking “family dinners” with Marcus.  We recently moved to the ‘burbs and now have a spacious kitchen that is more conducive to cooking with kids.  Marcus loves to cut vegetables, taste and add ingredients, stir the pot, etc.  He’s inordinately proud of the meals he cooks and usually eats a good portion too.

We also found this 5-part series on picky eating from Raise Healthy Eaters very helpful.  It’s the most comprehensive guidance that I’ve seen that takes into account the fact that kids have different eating personalities.  Some kids are naturally enthusiastic eaters, some are more cautious, and then there are others who are ultra-cautious.  Eating strategies that work for one kid may not necessarily work for another.  (I’ve got my fingers crossed that Gavin continues to be an Enthusiastic Eater, but I know not to count my chickens before they hatch.  He’s only 16 months old, so we’re still happily in the I-will-scream-if-I-can’t-shovel-that-into-my-face phase.)

Pizzelle amore

Adam found some delicious caramel toffee pizzelles the last time we were at Whole Foods. At 23 calories a pop, they are such a tasty and guilt-free treat.  Perfectly thin and crispy with just the right hint of sweetness and flavor. Marcus thought he’d hit the jackpot when we gave him two for dessert, and Gavin nodded his little head in approval while munching happily on his.

Besides enjoying them plain, you can do all sorts of fun things with pizzelles – sandwich ice cream between them, pile them high between layers of whipped cream or pudding, crush them into a topping, heat them in the oven and shape them into tubes, cups, cones, and tacos ready for filling…

But at $4.99 for a package of about 40, they’re not exactly cheap.  That’s more than $0.12 per cookie!  Given the simple ingredients, I bet I could make them for a lot less.  Yes, it makes economic sense for me to get myself this pizzelle maker.

I bet the hubs wouldn’t protest too much if I made him piles of these.

We’d have to make and eat only 320 pizzelles to recover the cost of the machine.  (I know our two boys wouldn’t mind!)