Wednesday, March 17, 2010

cooking this week

After my last post about menu ideas, a friend emailed to gently suggest I was too ambitious in the kitchen. I wish that were the case! When I am having a bad day (or days), we eat a lot of scrambled eggs with pesto, our most reliably-eaten meal. The little tykes are finally eating boxed mac and cheese, and they really love the chicken breakfast sausage, party meatballs, and frozen gnocchi dishes we get at Trader Joe's. But I have had a constant struggle with my weight (and really, with eating well) since adolescence, and I have had high blood pressure on and off since my long hospital stay after being in a head-on car crash in 2004. I'm concerned about my own health, and I am really striving to set good habits for my children. I want my kids to be among the exception to the obesity epidemic we are experiencing in this country. I want to be around and healthy to meet my grandchildren and have them know me.

Maybe my meal ideas look a little complicated, but really the part I struggle with the most is cleaning up! For now, while I am still at home with my children, I hope to continue cooking meals with basic ingredients and avoid processed foods as much as possible. As spring unfolds, I also hope to find us eating more veggies, something often lacking from meals.

Looking back on what I wrote last week, I'm doing pretty well. My lack of specific planning showed a little last night, when I was in the middle of a several-hour-long anxiety attack. I ended up cooking brown rice (which Max ate) and made the sauce for butternut squash mac and cheese, but no pasta. Thankfully Laurie came home early and cooked up some breakfast sausage, made some corn, and we warmed up some of the delicious chicken pot pie she had made the night before. When the boys refused everything but the meat, they ended up eating whole grain c*heerios with milk and raspberries while I sat between them trying to catch my breath. What a mess!

There have been better moments, though, like when Korin came over on Sunday and we made our sweet potato gnocchi to freeze. It's so delicious, but sadly I'm the only one here who will eat it.

I made sweet potato and cheddar quesadillas, and the boys actually ate them!

I also managed to make four loaves of cardamom bread, but I forgot to add the cardamom. We gave loaves to friends and sent one to work with Laurie to the delight of her colleagues.

We also made a corned beef crockpot meal, but it was too sour for both me and Laurie. I think I'm going to throw together an easy lentil soup this afternoon, to go with that brown rice from last night. I want to get more meat-free meals on the table. Do you have favorite vegetarian meals? I'd love to hear em!


  1. I'm with you...I do give the kids some crackers and multi-grain Cheerios, but other than that they get virtually no processed food. Oh, I guess I should add chicken fingers and fish sticks to that list, huh? But I have been making my own bread, waffles and pancakes with whole grains for awhile now, and really, it isn't that time consuming.

    We have challenges with veggies, but are getting better. I can't wait for the Farmers' Market to open up here (May) so I can take the kids and let them pick out their veges. Maybe that will get them more committed.

    Anyway, I make a spaghetti casserole with whole grain pasta that is delicious. I use fresh mozzarella and whatever veggies you want to throw in. You can really experiment with this dish. Roast your veggies ahead of time for even more flavor. And it's one pot plus a casserole for clean up (unless you get fancy and roast anything, in which case, use FOIL!)

    I cook the 1 lb. of spaghetti in a big stock pot. When it's done, pull out a cup of the water and strain the pasta. Into the pot throw stewed tomatoes (I use my own, but you can use canned), 1 lb of fress mozz cubed, and whatever other veggies you like. Eggplant, olives, squash, onions, red bell peppers, you name it...

    Add back the pasta. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a greased casserole (13x9), sprinkle with shredded mozz and Italian bread crumbs. When you're ready to cook it (I sometimes make ahead, in which case I leave off the bread crumbs until ready...), cook at 375 degrees until warm and bubbly. YUM!!!

    My family goes gaga for it, and it makes LOTS of leftovers, which we love as well.

    You gotta love cheese, though.

  2. Forgot to mention, that one cup of water that you pulled out? Add that back when you mix everything together. If you use "soupier" veggies, you may not need it. Follow your hunch. It doesn't matter either way all that much. I've forgotten it altogether and it's been fine. When I use meat, I do make sure to add the water, though, so it doesn't dry out.

  3. I remember one of the boys like my spinach and cauliflower curry.

    Sauté one whole chopped onion in some olive oil for a few minutes, until tender. Add 1T or more if you like lots of spice, curry paste or powder
    Add one can of chopped tomato's
    Add one head of cauliflower chopped into small pieces
    Simmer for about ten minutes, stir occasionally
    ( you can also add 1 diced red bell peper if you like, I leave it out because Xander doesn't like it)
    Next add 1 lb washed baby spinach. Chop it if you like smaller pieces.
    Cook for another five minutes.
    Then add one can of coconut milk.
    Simmer for another five minutes to let the flavors marry.
    If your not allergic add one T of creamy peanut butter
    Add sea salt to taste.
    Serve over quinoa or rice

    Were in the same boat, lots of meat, and fruits but little veggies, sigh. I just keep cooking and hope that one day they will eat them

  4. Yep, mine are not thrilled with veggies either. Try not stress about it. I offer 3-4 things - if they don't eat them, maybe I'll put out some Kix or goldfish crackers. Maybe not. I just figure if they aren't eating, maybe they're not hungry.

    I make MUCH less effort in the kitchen than you do. I just don't have the time. Our veggie staples are steamed carrots with honey mustard sauce and plain canned green beans. (We also do some canned peas and frozen spanikopita if I can find it at Costco.)

    While I agree that making good food from scratch doesn't take *that* much time, it does take longer. Consider this: fresh green beans vs canned. (Of course, fresh are better for you!)

    Fresh - buy them and use within a few days (pressure!) Wash, snap off the ends and cut them (5 min). Steam them (15 min). Total - 20 min.

    Canned - open the can (10 seconds). Pour into a bowl, microwave (40 seconds). Total - less than 1 min.

    If you have twins whining and grabbing at your pants, etc. saving 19 min is a godsend! Sure you don't have to stand there the whole time the beans are cooking... but you do have to check on a hot pan with a baby (or two) in your arms, etc. It's just harder...

    That's my 2 cents.

  5. I applaud your efforts to feed the boys non-processed foods. they are at a tough age (very picky) and there are 2 of them so it might help to post some easy ideas on the fridge if you have to resort to a quick meal. Do they eat pancakes or waffles cuz you can make a batch and freeze them. what about a veggie soup? or a chicken soup with lots of carrots? maybe the secret is cooking for yourself (healthy meals) and finding something for the boys that thay will eat. (what can be wrong with c*errios?)

  6. 1. My kids will eat fresh raw veggies over cooked any hour of any day: dips galore (hummus, honey mustrd, ranch etc.)

    2. My daughter LOVES minestroni soup. She will happily eat the flavorful veggies in the soup, same ones she spits out of stews. Go figure. Minestroni recipes abound, and you can basically just use canned whole tomatoes with the juice as the base, plus water or broth (boxed), and chuck in any veggies you have available, asparagus, beans (white, green, whatever!), some spinach, onion, garlic, spices, and at the end, some pasta. She loves little pastas, like orzo.

    3. shredded zucchini MELTS! Seriously. It melts into stew, it melts into casseroles or lasagnes, it disappears almost completely! YAY!

    4. get creative with salads. have things on hand to use that you love, that the boys love, and add them to salads. craisins or dried cranberries (or other fruit - mmmm!!!), goat cheese to crumble in, and practice up some yummy salad dressings. There are orange juice based ones and other ones that are original and easy and tasty - kids love them! Here's some links:

    Remember - skip right over ones that are too complicated, that you are pretty sure they won't eat, or that have a lot of new foods in them all at once. One new food at a time is plenty!

    Good luck, C! You are SUCH a great mama!!