Green Eggs and Ham

I hate for any meal to be a battle with my two-year old, but especially breakfast.  Mornings are crazy and chaotic at our house with everyone trying to get to work and school at various times and of course the house must always be immaculate in case someone (anyone!) decides to come look at it.  So the last thing I need is to spend an hour coaxing my son to eat something he’d really rather not.  Thus, although my primary goal with any meal is nutrition, at breakfast I try to let Aiden decide, from the options I give him of course, what he would like to eat.  This morning I ran the gambit of all the choices and each was answered with a resounding “NO!”  “Would you like oatmeal?” I asked.  Toast? Pancakes? Fruit salad? Cereal? Granola Bar?  No, no, no, no, no, and NO.  Finally, somewhat exasperated, I asked him, “What would you like to eat, Aiden?”  He answered with a challenging smirk in his eye, “Green eggs and ham!”  My first thought, as a tired, busy mom, was “Seriously, Aiden?!?  No . . . pick something else.”  But a quiet voice in my ear reminded me of one of my parenting goals – only say no if it’s absolutely necessary since there will be ample opportunity to do so.  And why not think outside the box?  So I pondered it for a second and stepped up to my little man’s challenge.  “OK!” I said, “I can do that.”

So I pulled some spinach out of the freezer and set it to boil while I cooked up some bacon (turkey for us, not ham . . . don’t tell Aiden).   When the spinach was finished, I drained it and put it in a blender with 4 eggs, about 2 servings of egg substitute (trying to curb cholesterol), 1% cheddar cheese, dill, garlic salt, and pepper.  I blended it till it was a slimy green mass of uncooked egg (yum, right?) and then put it in a skillet and scrambled it till it was well done.  Add to that some dark wheat toast and VOILA!  A balanced breakfast of green eggs and “ham”.

I asked Aiden if he liked it.  “Try it. Try it and you may, I say!”  His response: “It’s dewishous!”  To top it all off, we read the book while we ate and he kept proudly exclaiming, “Just like I have green eggs!”  It was delightful.  Proving once again that it always pays to be open-minded and stretch your boundaries a little.  And since children have very few boundaries as it is, they make outstanding coaches.  Bon Appetit!


Can Pizza Be Part of a Healthy Diet? ABSOLUTELY!

My husband and I are attempting to re-focus our efforts on healthy eating. Of course, this means a variety of things to a variety of people.  My understanding of the phrase “eating healthy” might make other, more devoted dietitians laugh at my mediocrity.  But regardless of where your standards lie, pizza is generally not on the list of things one thinks of when imagining a healthy meal. At least not any pizza you can buy “hot and ready” for $5.99 plus tax and grease.  But what about the type of pizza you can actually still call a pie? One made with all fresh, farmer’s market ingredients?  I’ll let you decide for yourself, but in my book, it is a resounding YES! and my family thought so too.

Italian Vegetable Pizza Pie

The Crust –
French Bread Dough (your own or ready-made)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Italian Seasoning
1 tsp Minced Garlic

Pre-heat oven to 350′  Start with your favorite recipe for french bread dough, or buy it ready-made at the grocery store.  I used the french bread from Pillsbury’s new line of “all natural” doughs, but I’m sure many of you would prefer to make your own. Roll  out the dough on a greased cookie sheet.  (If it keeps pulling back on itself, roll it out on the counter first and then place it on the greased sheet.) Brush the dough with the olive oil and Dijon and sprinkle with black pepper, italian seasoning and garlic.

The Filling –
1 Large Fresh Tomato, Halved and Sliced
1/2 Yellow Squash, Sliced
1/2 Zucchini, Sliced
2 Large Baby Bella Mushrooms, Sliced
2 Green Onions Sliced
Handful of Fresh Spinach Leave
6-8 Large Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped
1 Container of Crumbled Feta Cheese
More Freshly Ground Black Pepper

After slicing the tomato, remove all the seeds and discard (so they don’t make the dough soggy). Dry the tomatoes on paper towels and arrange in a circle in the center of the prepared dough. Layer all the remaining vegetables on top in the order that they are listed. Sprinkle with the freshly chopped basil and ground pepper and crumble the feta cheese over the top. Stretch and roll the dough over the top of your layers and pinch together.  If you cannot get it to stay up, you can pin it with toothpicks or kebab skewers. Bake in the oven at 350′ for approximately 30 minutes or untill the crust begins to brown.  In the last 3 – 5 minutes, bring the oven temperature up to about 400′ to brown the crust and make it crisp.  Tada!

If you give this recipe a try, I would love to hear how it goes!  Or, if you’re like me and you never stick to a recipe, tell me about any improvements or changes you make along the way.  Happy cooking!

No Culinary Regrets

It is a somewhat rare occurrence when my expectations for my culinary creativity wholly live up to the end result.  Don’t get me wrong, I pride myself on being a fairly good cook and the end result is usually quite delicious (if I do say so myself).  But, as is the case for most artists when it comes to their own craft, I am extremely critical of my own work and the final product that sits in front of me when I’m finished is not always what I envisioned in my mind when I first set out.  So, no matter how delectable the entree, I always feel a twinge of disappointment for the things I know I could’ve done better.  This, however, was not the case last night.  Last night, I created a dish so sublime, there was not a thing I would change if did it over again.  And when one creates such a dish, it would be shameful not to pass it along.  So, as a subtle break from my philosophizing of late, I bring you my recipe for:

Meatball and Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

The Noodles:
Boil a bag of Egg Noodles (or spiral noodles if you try to stay away from eggs as I do) in salted water until tender.  Drain and douse with olive oil to keep from getting sticky.  Set aside.

The Meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey (you can also use ground beef if you prefer)
2/3 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup milk (I use skim)
3 tablespoons of italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red onion, chopped (approx 1/4 c)
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 egg (I use egg beaters)
Place all ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly with your hands.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet (or two) and place 2 inch balls of meat mixture into oil, turning frequently until cooked through and brown on all sides.  Set aside.

The Sauce:
4 palm sized baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2-3 sections of the heart of celery, including the leafy tops, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1-2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of italian seasoning
1 cup sour cream (I use lite sour cream)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I use the heart healthy)
1-2 cups milk, to desired thickness (I use skim)
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese
Place all of the vegetables in a skillet with salt and seasoning, douse with olive oil and sauté over medium heat till all are soft and tender.  Add sour cream, soup, and milk and stir well.  Add the finished meatballs to the mixture.  Saute over low heat with the lid on the pan for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Add cheese to the top and stir in as it melts.  Serve over noodles.

Simple Pleasures

Who among us does not regularly use the excuse of being busy as the reason we have not properly kept up with our friends or called our family or stopped to breathe? Often we answer the question, “How have you been?” with, “Busy, busy!” in a feeble attempt to feel important. But what is it that’s keeping us so very busy? In today’s high-tech, high-speed, high-def world, how do we find time to relax and enjoy the little things so we can maintain high-spirits? I think one crucial way is to embrace simplicity. There are so many things that we tend to dismiss as unimportant or unworthy of our time and attention just because they are simple. Uncomplicated. Basic. But these are the very things that, because they require so little imput, often rejuvenate the mind and spirit by their very simplicity. Two nights ago, for instance, I was utterly pleased with the dinner I prepared but thought it much too ordinary to write about. Yet there was something about its modesty, quick preparation, and healthy balance, not to mention the happy family around my table that made it gleam every bit as brightly as something that I spent hours in the kitchen creatively developing.

Baked cod, roasted in the oven with yellow squash, zucchini, and red onion, sprinkled with garlic, lemon pepper, black pepper, slight Cajun seasoning, and paprika, and served with creamy angel hair pasta on the side.

Sometimes I almost find it ironic or perplexing that I enjoy activities such as crocheting or scrapbooking so much. But every time I undertake one of these projects I feel enriched, calm, happy. Perhaps it is the quiet that envelopes me while I pursue them that is so refreshing. In a world where we spend so much time staring at lighted rectangles and experiencing sensory overload in the form of music, news, tv, radio, games, internet… there is an undeniable peace and comfort in the quiet repetitive task of looping yarn over and over in your hands and making something warm and lovely and useful.

The colors I picked for my next crochet project.

And there is always the indisputable simple pleasure of playing in the rain. As adults, we see the rain coming and rush for cover because heaven forbid we should get a little wet. But children have it right. They see the rain coming and they want to experience it. They stick their heads back and their tongues out and spin circles in the driveway tasting the dizzying coolness of a summer shower. And it is delicious. It is timeless. It is simple.

Aiden playing in the rain.

I have learned as of late to embrace these simple pleasures with a new respect and satisfaction – realizing that they bring balance to the busy and calm the stress of everyday life.

Banana Nut . . . Curry?!?

That’s right.  You read it correctly.  Inspiration has struck my kitchen again with a concoction that promised to be either disastrous or delightful.  Thankfully, as you can probably guess since I am proudly sharing it with you, it fell decidedly in the delightful category.  I have had the privilege lately, thanks to my wonderful sitter, of having Thursday afternoons to myself for two full hours while my son goes to play group.  Sometimes I have taken that opportunity to run errands or do other personal things that can be SO very difficult to do with a toddler, but on more than one occasion now, I have taken that time to creatively cook.  When I have the time and energy to study ingredients, experiment with quantities, and develop ideas, then cooking becomes more than a refueling of the family.  It becomes art.  It is as creative as writing, playing music, or drawing and it provides the same sort of release.  And in the same way that I am passionate about sharing my other creative endeavors, I am also driven to share my culinary successes. So VOILA!  Banana Nut Curry.  But, as I have said before, I am very touchy-feely about amounts.  You have to do whatever looks, smells, tastes right to you, so please take all of my measurements with a grain of salt (pun very much intended).

Banana Walnut Curry
Chop Julienne Style:
1/2 large green bell pepper
1/2 large purple onion
4 large mushrooms
1 medium yellow squash
healthy handful of chopped cilantro
healthy handful of chopped walnuts
2-4 Chicken breasts (depending on size) cut into small strips (as though you were julienning chicken)

Add all of the previous ingredients to large skillet and douse with olive oil.  Season with the following spices to taste. (Again, all the quantities listed are VERY approximate. Since I didn’t measure while I was cooking, I have to guess retrospectively.)
Yellow Curry Powder (2 TBSPs)
Red Curry Powder (1 TBSP)
Dill (1 TBSP)
Garlic Powder (One good sprinkle across pan)
Thyme (1 tsp)
Cinnamon (1 TBSP)
Ginger (1-2 tsp)

Saute over medium to high heat until chicken is fully cooked and vegetables are tender.  Reduce heat to low and add the following ingredients to make the sauce:
1 to 1 1/2 cups of Sour Cream (I use low-fat sour cream for heart health reasons.)
1/2 large sweet potato, cooked and mashed (I know this would be a pain to do separately, but I had leftover mashed sweet potatoes from a previous dinner and I knew it would work well.  So you could always cook the curry sometime after you do sweet potatoes, as I did.  But bear in mind, they have to be savory sweet potatoes and not candied.)
1/2 Banana, mashed (This ingredient was the most risky for me.  I stayed on the fence for a while about whether or not to add it, knowing it could either completely ruin or completely make the dish.  But we never get anywhere creatively if we don’t take risks, so in it went.  I am very glad I took the risk.)
Milk to desired consistency (I used skim, but you can use whatever you prefer)
Red Curry Powder (probably another TBSP)
A dash more Cinnamon and Garlic (to taste)

Server over Brown Rice or Pasta.  I would have chosen rice, but, unfortunately I did not have any, so I fixed pasta and was pleasantly surprised at how nicely it worked.