Friday, February 14, 2014

Veggie Fajitas and the Politics of Feeding Children Vegetables.

I'm not a believer in hiding veggies from your children. True, there are many celebrities with best-selling cookbooks that tout the benefits of pureeing veggies into things like brownies and spaghetti sauce. I think that's a neat idea. But as a way of life, I believe in presenting children with food that looks as much in it's natural state as possible. If they never know that they are eating a vegetable, how will they ever choose to eat one voluntarily?
Hear me out.
It's useful to add nutrients to a picky eater's meals. But overall, the real value is teaching kids that veggies are delicious, and an important part of their diet. Give a kid a zucchini and he's probably going to turn his nose up at it a few times. But be persistant. Eventually it will take. How do I know? Because we've lived this ideology again and again.
Tonight I made veggie fajitas for my family. No tofu. No seitan. Just carmelized veggies in a tortilla. Even I was skeptical that it would take with my kids, particularly my youngest.  But all three of my kids ate, and ate well.
We have a philosophy in this house that what's for dinner is what's for dinner. There will be nothing else. I am not going to cater to you. It's a hard line to draw. But if you don't eat, you go hungry. ( A big, BIG part of this is preventing too much snacking before dinner. Hungry kids EAT).
Let's just say it's a power struggle. And I win, almost every time.
Don't get me wrong. It didn't happen overnight. It took a long, LONG time. All I ask is that they try. Try the veggies.
2-3 bites at least. Then you can eat your beans and rice and tortillas.
And over time, those 2-3 bites turn into 5-6. And then a whole meal. It works. Try it. And let me know how it works out for you. What challenges do you face in the kitchen? Do you think my rules are too strict?
Veggie Fajitas
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 small zucchini, speared
In a large skillet saute the onions and mushrooms until soft. Add the zucchini and red bell pepper. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are caramelized. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm tortillas with rice and beans on the side.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


 My last pregnancy was spent in the kitchen, learning to make pie. I had such a happy time, and learned to make all kinds of delicious desserts, even though I'm not particularly a fan of sweets.  Maybe that's why rhubarb pie is my favorite. It's easy to make, sweet but not overly so, and has a nice tartness.

I have made so many failures in the process of learning: burnt pie, runny pie, pie that is too sweet, pie that is too bland.

Now that I'm over the learning curve, I find that pie making can be much quicker than expected. So there are a few key steps to make sure that your dessert comes out perfect:

1. Buy or make a good quality pie crust. I always make my own and the flavor really does make a difference. I opt to make a crust with about 1/2 the butter of a traditional pie, and the result is a chewier, more rustic crust. You can try all sorts of varieties, and I hear coconut oil is a great vegan substitute for butter. I haven't tried that yet.

2. After you sugar your fruit, let it sit for 20 minutes and then DRAIN before continuing on with the recipe. This will ensure your pie is not runny.

3. Let your pie set for a few hours after cooking, so that it has the chance to thicken. You can always reheat it if you want it warm.

Now let's get cooking!

Pie Crust Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of flour
1 stick of butter, cut into small chunks
1 tsp each salt and sugar
8 Tbsp of  ice water

Mix the salt and sugar into the flour. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives.  Add the water in, little by little, until your dough just sticks together. Divide in half, wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. When ready to fill the pie, roll each ball out to form flat disks (the top and bottom of your pie).

Pie Filling

3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1  lb of strawberries, green parts removed, quartered
1/4 and 1/2 cup of sugar, divided
3 tbsp corn starch

Place the rhubarb and strawberries into a large bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of sugar. Let sit 20 minutes. Drain the liquid from the fruit. Next, stir  the cornstarch and reserved 1/2 cup of sugar into the fruit.

Pour the fruit mixture into the pie pan/crust and top with the second crust, using a fork to crimp the edges together. Brush the top of the pie with a little milk or egg wash if you want that shiny effect (below).

**Bake at 450 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and cook another 40 minutes.

 Cool for 3 hours or so, then serve!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

White Bean and Kale Soup (Vegan)

The rain has finally arrived, albeit a bit late in the year. This has been the driest year in California history, and while I can't say I've been hating all the sunshine, the drought is a real concern. And I really do love the rain. It's the perfect time to stay all day in jammies, eat soup, make tea and listen to the earth be renewed.

We also spent the week celebrating my middle son's 10th birthday and I'm feeling a little sick of party food, pizza and cupcakes. This was a nice dinner to bring my family back to their senses.My kids enjoyed this one, the 12 year old had 3 servings!

This bean and kale soup is very simple and quick to make. The bell pepper added towards the end adds a bright and peppery flavor to the soup.


2 tbsp Better than Boullion (veggie flavor)
6 cups of water
1 onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
1 cup of cooked white beans
2 cups of kale

Saute the onion and celery in a large saucepan until translucent. Add in the garlic and bay leaf and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add in the boullion, rosemary and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Then add in the rest of the ingredients, bring back to a boil. Simmer until peas and carrots are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary stem and bay leaf prior to serving. Enjoy with a crusty loaf of bread, for dipping.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese with Crunchy Kale Topping

My husband's childhood friend recently cooked dinner for us and his family ( He also happens to be a chef, so we usually let him do the cooking when he comes over). He likes to do it, and we reap the benefits of a delicious meal with good friends.
Though he made a different pasta dish, I watched him top it with kale and breadcrumbs and I was, I admit, skeptical. I would have stirred the kale into the whole mix, and I was picturing  the kale turning into a soggy, sloppy mess.
Well. Don't question the chef! He pulled it out and the kale was crunchy and salty and delicious. Just like the kale chips we all know and love. He made kale chip casserole.  This dish is inspired by his.
1 package of pasta, cooked and drained
1 onion, diced
2 cups of cheese
1.5-2 cups of kale, torn into bite sized pieces
2 cups of milk
1 tbsp oil or butter
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
Place your cooked pasta in a large casserole dish. Meanwhile, saute the onion until soft, and stir into the pasta.
In a small sauce pan, heat the oil. Stir the flour into the oil quickly and brown slightly, but do not burn. Add the milk and whisk continuously until hot. Whisk in the cheese and stir until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and salt and pepper to taste.
Top the pasta with a sprinkle of cheese, the kale and breadcrumbs and a dash more salt. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake another 8 minutes.