Deceive Them? Or Not?

15 04 2015

Remember Jessica Seinfeld’s 2008 book, Deceptively Delicious?  It’s a recipe book that includes all sorts of ways to sneak veggies into your kids’ food, basically through purees that can be frozen in batches, then added to various dishes, even brownies!  The book received mixed reviews.  There were definitely plenty of people who called foul, saying that parents shouldn’t fool their kids into eating vegetables, meaning that those “yucky green things” should just be presented in their whole and unadulterated form at every opportunity, I guess…

Me, I guess I come down somewhere in the middle.  Someone gave me the Seinfeld book a couple years after it was published, so I have perused it a few times.  I made a couple of recipes, then passed it along.  The first one I tried was the recipe for “green eggs” (basically pureeing spinach with your eggs, then scrambling the whole thing up).  My family was less than impressed with that one.  And even I asked myself, as I choked down the last green bites of the 8 eggs I’d scrambled, what would make a person do this terrible thing to the naturally delicious egg?

So, that’s the real issue I have about sneaking veggies in…  The veggies should “do no harm” or — setting our hopes high — actually make the dish more delicious.  It’s a bit sad to think about the poor old frozen cauliflower puree just doing its best to blend in and not arouse the suspicions of the child.

I wondered whether many of the things I do qualify as “deceptive.”  But I don’t think so…  When we make green smoothies with kale, spinach, and/or cucumber along with some fruit, the kids chop and add everything to the blender.  The kids can clearly taste the featured vegetable in a pureed soup (butternut squash, beet, greens, broccoli, etc.) very clearly, but the cooking techniques help the veggie to be less bitter, creamy, smooth, and warming.  Dishes like smothered chicken thighs, braised short ribs, or lentil-barley soup can include lots of onions, carrots, celery, and herbs, but the veggies end up so well cooked (and the meat/beans so savory) that it’s hard to imagine anyone refusing to eat these dishes.

But there is at least one Seinfeld-based dish I do make, and pretty often at that:  Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.  IMG_2465My kids ask for it every week (although I try to keep it to every other week) and they actually prefer it to any other kind of mac and cheese, especially ones that are “too cheesy,” in their words.  (I, on the other hand, have no idea what they are talking about as I could happily slurp melted cheese all day long and not get tired of it.)  Anyway, the recipe I eventually tweaked into submission was reportedly a Michelle Obama recipe.  Here’s the recipe I started with — — and what follows is the one I use now, with twice the cauliflower and less cheese.  Also, the whole thing is doubled, because we love the leftovers for lunches the next day or two!


2 pounds whole wheat pasta (elbows, penne, etc.)
2 cups milk
1-1.5 pounds shredded cheddar cheese (or a mixture of your favorite melting cheeses)
2 heads cauliflower, quartered
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (if on hand)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (more or less or none, whatever you have)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bread crumbs


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
  3. Steam the cauliflower with just a little water in the bottom of the pot until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer cauliflower and steaming liquid to a blender and puree.
  4. Pour hot cauliflower puree over pasta. Add the milk, both cheeses, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture into a giant casserole dish (if your family likes leftovers!).  (If not, half the recipe and use a 9×12 baking dish.)
  5. Sprinkle breadcrumbs across the top of the pasta mixture, then place the dish in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and the sauce is bubbling.

By the way, Jessica, your alternative “Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese”?  Again, not OK.  Might even be worse than your Green Eggs.  Butternut squash is delicious in so many ways, roasted, pureed soup, steamed as a side for a rich saucy beef dish, etc.  But pureed in mac and cheese?  No, Jessica.  Just no.

When In Doubt, Fry In Butter

14 04 2015

It should be every Southern girl’s mantra really.

I’m not saying it’s the healthiest idea, but sometimes it’s just the right thing to do.  Everyone loves grilled cheese, pancakes, salmon croquettes, and scrambled eggs, right?  They all have one very delicious thing in common:  the greasy sizzle of a little butter in a pan.

But sometimes a little hot butter bath can come in handy when you have something that needs a little…  um, improvement, say.  Take, for example, the almond butter and strawberry jam sandwiches left over from a hike the day before.  When they were rediscovered this morning near the bottom of a crumby backpack, they were in rough shape.  But who wants to waste two whole sandwiches, especially when you aren’t headed to the grocery store until Wednesday?  AB&J French Toast to the rescue!  Just soak the hard, stale sandwiches in a little egg, milk and cinnamon mixture, then… well, fry in butter of course!  And a dipper cup of maple syrup doesn’t hurt.

IMG_2450 IMG_2452

And Twins for Lunch!

25 03 2015

Well, I promised a photo of the green smoothie, and look here it is — almost three years later!  And I was right about one thing back then:  The famous green smoothie of June 30, 2012, was the beginning of a new era, but not only in our beverage options.  In fact, in just 2 months and 3 days after that posting, our girl/boy twins, LA and BB, arrived on the scene.  And IMG_1100with that we immediately entered the world of families with three children, which is a crazy place to be when you’ve only had one for almost five years.  And this explains my three-year hiatus.

But while I may have taken a lengthy break from blogging, let me assure you that my kitchen saw no such vacation!  I will admit that I have made exactly ZERO yeasted breads since 2012, but LA and BB have been great teachers in so many other subjects, including “How to Make Dinner in Random 2-Minute Intervals Between Nursing Screaming Twin Babies” and “What to Cook When None of Your Children Will Eat the Same Two Things.”  So, yeah, there’s been plenty going on.

And the smoothies?  Well, they are definitely an old family favorite at this point, and I have a tried and true formula that is easily tweaked in a variety of directions.  While I occasionally make a pink or orange smoothie that involves no veggies (just fruit) or a chocolate nut-butter smoothie, most everyone seems to prefer the green smoothies, so who I am to argue with that one?

I’m not one of those moms who whips up a smoothie for breakfast every morning.  Sorry to disappoint.  The kids generally get a couple of pieces of toast or a bowl of hot or cold cereal, and that’s it.  If I have time to toss them some cut-up fruit left over from lunchbox packing, then that’s a great day.  But the smoothies are handy to make later in the day and pour in a sippy cup for the kids as a snack after school or when we are out and about.  We also enjoy them with a weekend breakfast or lunch, especially when it feels a little grain/protein-heavy or when the grown-ups are having a tough-to-chew green salad for a side.  Here’s the formula:

(Makes about 7 cups, give or take)

1 handful of ice

1 handful of cashews or hemp hearts

2 apples (or pears)

2 bananas

a bit of something citrusy (pieces of orange, a scoop of orange juice concentrate, some frozen mango or peaches)

1/2 cucumber (if available)

1/2 bunch of kale or spinach

1/2 cup or so plain kefir or yogurt

1/2 cup or so cold water as needed

And blend!  I almost never put berries in a smoothie because it seems like a waste since the kids eat them up like candy in their natural form anyway.  Plus most berries will turn your green smoothie into a REALLY unattractive shade of brown.  Trust me on this one.  Even if they look excited when you put that brown smoothie in front of them, they will NOT be happy when they take a sip and realize it tastes like sweet and sour fruitiness instead of chocolate.  Because let’s face it… chocolate is really the only liquid in a cup that should be that shade of brown.  Right?

Kale for Breakfast!

30 06 2012

I’ve been dreaming of a new blender since 2005 when I bought a used drugstore model from a neighbor’s garage sale for $3. That blender worked for me for most things, but in recent months, the smokey odor emanating from the base was beginning to concern me. And so, for my birthday, my family purchased me a new powerhouse of a blender — thanks, fam! — and at last this morning, we got to try one of these green smoothies that everyone on the Internet has been talking about for the last few years…

Half a bunch of kale, stems removed; two apples with skin; two peaches with skin; and two bananas (without skin of course); along with a couple of handfuls of ice was all it took to make three smoothies (two tall and one short) for the whole fam for breakfast. And wow. They were outrageously delicious. I wish I had a photo, but the truth is that we were all drinking so fast that no one thought to grab the camera. Oh, well — next time! This is definitely the beginning of a new era for us…

A Piece of Cake

5 05 2012

Or is it?  Actually, I’ve never found baking cakes to be that easy.  Bread, brownies, cookies, muffins, quick breads, those I can handle without any problems, but for some reason my cakes often end up on the dry side — maybe I leave them in the oven a bit too long?


Today’s cake was an exception.  Coconut cake was specially requested for the occasion, and my favorite cookbook — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything — didn’t disappoint.  Even with whole wheat pastry flour and unsweetened flaked coconut, it’s tender and delicious.  But it wasn’t a piece of cake, not to me anyway — three separate recipes including the cake itself, the buttercream frosting, and the vanilla pudding sandwiched in between the layers.  And you know, once you realize exactly how much butter and sugar goes into these things, you can’t help but cut yourself a smaller piece.

But here’s the thing:  Maybe sweet delights like coconut cake SHOULD be hard to make and maybe the process is crucial for making you realize exactly how decadent they are.  Maybe that’s part of what makes a treat special, instead of an everyday occurrence.  When you buy the cake (or the cookies, or the candy, or anything similar), neither the difficulty of the creation nor the decadent truth of its deliciousness is apparent.

So here’s to cake, for being hard to make and bad for you, and oh-so-wonderful!  Thank goodness the rest will keep ’til tomorrow.

A Year and Half Later…

2 05 2012

Nothing wrong with a little hiatus, right?

But I’m back, or I think I am. For the time being anyway. And so much has happened in the last year and a half! Starting around age 3, Masher went through what I might describe as a “no” phase in relation to food, mainly consisting of falling on the floor screaming when he walked up to the dinner table and spotted kale interwoven in the mac ‘n cheese. It was — um — amusing. But to some extent, we seem to have passed through that stage, and now he generally eats what’s on his plate or eats around it as he pleases.

He asked for a spinach salad for his packed lunch today, “with egg, cheese, and tomato.” That was weird. Salad is a relatively new thing for him — it’s always been offered, but I think it’s a really tough texture for a toddler to deal with. And, you might ask, was it eaten? Well, when I picked him up from preschool, I found the container still half full. But this is pretty normal for him. I’m not sure the preschool environment is all that conducive to eating a good lunch since I hear that every kid seems to come home still hungry with most everything still unwrapped in their lunch boxes! So, the salad has been recycled as a before-dinner snack if a certain someone gets up from “rest time” with a raging hunger in his belly…

What’s for dinner tonight? Black beans and rice with red cabbage salad and some sliced avocado to top.  Happy eating!

What’s For Dinner?

29 10 2010

So, I thought I’d try something new on this blog since clearly what I had been doing — not posting anything — wasn’t working too well!  Instead of trying to think about something clever to write about some larger topic related to whatever I cook, I’m going to go the straightforward route and just write down what we’re having for dinner.  Sure, it may be of NO interest whatsoever to anyone else, but I think I’ll enjoy looking back on it, and that will do for now.  If I have time, I’ll include recipes.  Or if you, the reader, are interested in a recipe, ask me and then I’ll definitely post it!

Without further adieu …

Saturday — Out for Italian at Scossa in Easton, Maryland (we’ve been there several times, and the fresh pasta and tasty salads and entrees are awesome!)

Sunday — Out for Mexican at Rio Grande in Arlington (this is our too-lazy-to-cook-dinner go-to restaurant and usually works out perfectly, but it was a real disappointment this week when they totally forgot to bring Masher’s quesadilla and took forever to deliver the check)

Monday — Fusilli with dandelion green pesto, broccoli, corn, and peas

Tuesday — Roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican style (Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything recipe), black beans, rice, and red cabbage salad

Wednesday — Green salad with canned salmon for J, salmon and rice for Masher, yours truly out for dinner and a show with a girlfriend!

Thursday — Homemade pizza (crust recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) with red sauce, mozzarella, and Swiss chard, and a green salad with broccoli, shaved yellow beets, and a shallot vinaigrette

Friday — Tilapia poached in a tomato caper sauce with creamy mashed potatoes and kale chips

$50 for a Wooden Egg, or Masher Goes to the White House, Part II

6 04 2010

A friend gifted us tix to the White House Easter Egg Roll again this year, and we were happy to check it out.  The weather was warm and sunny, Masher was a whole year older and could probably actually be interested in some of the activities at this point, and I definitely was excited to see how the food options this year compared to those at the 2009 egg roll.  And I’d say it was a pretty mixed experience this year …  Here’s my review in short:

The Good

  • The weather was awesome.  Not really the Obamas’ doing, but nice anyway.
  • We waited only 1.5 hours in line as opposed to 2.5 hours last year!
  • Once we passed into the second waiting area, there were free beverages — excellent on a hot day.
  • There were more activities than in 2009, and most seemed way COOLER:  real Redskins in the football area, fun “science” activities like dissecting beans, and a bunch of craft tables for making/decorating necklaces, frisbees, and other random kid-junk.
  • We got another commemorative wooden egg.

The Bad

  • There were a LOT of people.  One volunteer told us a group of 5,000 entered every hour, but it definitely seemed as though more than 5,000 people were on the lawn when we were there.  Every activity (even taking a photo with people dressed as PBS kid TV characters or in front of cardboard “White House Easter Egg Roll” placards) had an extremely long line.  (Of course, Masher wasn’t getting within 50 feet of one of those man-sized bunnies or Clifford the Red Dog, so the photo lines weren’t too big a deal!)

    Masher fearfully telling Clifford the Big Red Dog to "Go home!"

  • It was naptime.  But that’s our fault.

The Ugly

White House security confiscated our empty Sigg water bottles and my entire emergency snack pack, which included — ironically enough — an unopened bag of National Zoo animal crackers.  (I was going to entitle this post “The Government Giveth, the Government Taketh Away,” but then Josh reminded me that the Smithsonian is a QUASI-governmental agency, so the title would not have been accurate.)  Anyway, I was pretty mad, and more so when I saw several other moms and kids brandishing bananas just steps past security.  But I snapped a photo of the offending items, and that was funny because then the security personnel (Secret Service?) started bobbing and ducking, thinking I was going to try to take their photos next.  Nothing personal, guys, just not sure you had the guidelines straight!

These are our dangerous snacks. I'll admit the dried bananas do look a little weird.

So, I just sent this missive to the White House:

Thanks for having my family and me to the Easter Egg Roll today. We had a nice time once we were in, but I was very disappointed in the security personnel on the way in to the grounds.

There was no indication on our tickets that there would be any restrictions on food from outside, so I figured that the rules might be similar to airline rules. I knew I needed to bring food because the food options last year were pretty unhealthy (hot dogs, chips, or cookies), and we also needed water as we waited in the line in the hot sun. As we approached the security checkpoint, I saw the sign that said “No open food or any beverage,” and I figured we were still fine: we had one box of raisins, one bag of dried bananas, two organic apples, and one unopened package of animal crackers received at the National Zoo a couple of weeks ago. To my surprise, the security person at our gate took everything. Then, as I was pouring the water out of our two Sigg water bottles, just as I would at the airport in order to take the empty container along with me, he told me he needed to take those too, and he did. He did not want to explain his reasoning, and he did not have any interest in asking someone else whether that was the right decision, saying we could get snacks later.

Unfortunately, although we very much appreciated the beverages (vitamin-enhanced water and juice) offered at the next stage of the line, we really would have liked just water; the lines were far too long in all of the free food tents on the lawn; and I never saw any other options for buying snacks. I did, however, see and speak with some other women with children who were permitted to bring in several bananas, water, and other snacks, so obviously the person handling my line was abiding by his own rules. And as a result, at the end of the day, I lost approximately $50 due to the confiscation of our food and the two water bottles (which sell for $21 apiece).

Comments? Apologies? My money back? Thanks in advance for your response.


4 04 2010

Yes, it’s true, “‘ish,” more commonly known as “fish,” is one of Masher’s favorite foods, just as it was mine when I was little.  My favorite version, of course, was the crappie or bluegill Dad and I would catch in the lake out back, or the catfish from the pond on Grandpa’s farm out in western Virginia, battered and crisped in the deep fryer with some kind of oil that we had been reusing for about a century.  Luckily I have not inherited the deep fryer (as yet), and I don’t reuse cooking oil (although I can still taste a batch of french fries my mom made with that fish cooking oil when I was about 10 years old — YUM, if you like fish!), but I still have a passion for fried fish.

Fish at our house is a quick and easy meal, so I generally don’t bother with using an egg bath before I roll the fish in flour or cornmeal and pan fry it — the bath is just too messy and adds unnecessary minutes.  Unfortunately, as a result, my fish generally isn’t as crispy as it could be.  To the rescue, garbanzo bean flour!

I had bought the garbanzo bean flour on a whim and didn’t have any other plans for it …  Why not try it out as a fish crust?  After salting and peppering the fish (catfish in this case), I dipped it in the garbanzo bean flour, which immediately began to stick thickly on the fillets in a way that regular flour just doesn’t do.  In the pan, both sides, for just a few minutes, and what do you know?  Delicious, and super-crispy, pan-fried fish.

I served the fish with some kale and mustard greens quickly sauteed with a bit of bacon and some broiled asparagus.  Josh actually called this his favorite meal of all time.  I thought the veggies turned out a bit on the greasy side, but I won’t deny it was delicious all the same.  Try it out!


3 04 2010

I might as well apologize up front for the lack of photos of our Passover meal.  Let me assure you that our makeshift Passover plate was filled with the requisite items — egg, bitter herb, celery and salt water, etc. — and the table was otherwise groaning with various foodstuffs.  Unfortunately, Masher was also throwing an immense fit on the floor, having decided earlier in the day that he didn’t feel like taking a nap, and photos really weren’t the number one priority …  How do other other mom food bloggers handle such situations?

Anyway, several of the Sephardic Jewish dishes we tried out in our kitchen were worth a mention, credit going to the creators of these recipes, of course.  I thought it was interesting that Ashkenazi Jews would probably not have lamb for Passover whereas it’s a usual custom for Sephardic Jews to eat lamb.  I love lamb, so when I saw this recipe for lamb with artichokes and zucchini, I figured we should definitely go the Sephardic route!  I don’t know much about this type of cuisine, but the aroma of the lamb with turmeric and cilantro was so deliciously familiar to me, I felt like I had definitely had a similar sauce, maybe in an Indian restaurant.  This recipe was a keeper.  I can’t wait to make it again.  Masher, on the other hand, refused even to try a piece of lamb from the pot, although the plain rice I served the dish over was acceptable … but he’s going through his own special two-year-old thing this week, so I can’t really take him too seriously.

We enjoyed some fresh peas and broiled asparagus alongside the stew, as well as this spinach matzah pie made with whole-wheat matzah.  Josh called the pie a more portable form of matzah-brei, his mother’s typical use of leftover matzah that involves more scrambled egg.

Finally, for dessert I made a nut cake with “soaking syrup” that was beyond delicious.  The recipe is from Jewish IMAGE magazine:

Honey Nut Cake in Soaking Syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon for a more pronounced cinnamon flavor)
1/2 cup matzah cake meal
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Soaking Syrup:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan.

For the cake: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the soaking syrup.
For the soaking syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.
Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup. Chilling the cake offsets its sweetness and makes it easier to cut.