I DON’T THINK THEY HAVE SUGAR SNAP PEAS IN ITALY. And if they do, I didn’t know how to say it (surprise!) so my kids were new to peas until last week. Now to be clear, my brood is not always interested in new foods. Before a bite of anything unfamiliar ever touches her lips, my two-year-old always says the predictable, “I don’t yike it.” My four-year-old used to do the same thing. So what was the verdict here? Two tiny ladies perched on booster seats and singing out, “More peas, please!” The third guy was only interested in his noodles but that works too. One meal, five happy people. Here’s how we got there.
HERE’S THE PINT-SIZED REVIEW FOR THIS ONE: “I like it a little bit.” That would be Phoebe (4) when I served this cabbage dish for dinner the other night. Estelle (2) and George (1) were equally enthusiastic. And you know what? That works for me!
A BOWL OF PASTA DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN TOMATO SAUCE. One of the easiest ideas I’ve learned from the Italians is to substitute traditional red sauce with something much simpler: extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Dinner’s on the table in 20 minutes, and it’s a really good one.
I LOVE A GREAT IDEA WHEN I HEAR ONE. A friend shared the concept of “freezer food” with me this weekend. If you aren’t familiar, it goes like this: never make just one batch of something when you can double or triple it. Eat one serving tonight and freeze the others for future meals. That are already made! It’s a good one, but we’ve got a problem in Rome. There’s just not room in my miniature Euro-freezer. So instead, I always try to do something interesting with leftovers later in the week.
This one features the second half of a juicy pork roast we had the other night. Our ham, cheese and apple melts are a cross between a grilled cheese sandwich and a quesadilla…and they’re delicious. When Phoebe (3 years) saw her cheesy wedges, she shouted “pizza!” and gladly ate more than one. Estelle (20 months) didn’t care what they were called. She just chowed down. [Read more...]
THEY DON’T REALLY DO TAKE-OUT IN ITALY. They definitely don’t do a lot of ethnic food either. And even if they did, stir-fry is one of those dishes that’s so easy to make at home, plus a million times healthier, why not just whip it up? To make it more kid-friendly I added lots of fresh orange juice to a simple base of ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Oh, and I added carrots too. I couldn’t help myself.
THIS ONE STARTED WITH BUDDY. Do you know the Cake Boss? I’m sure you do but I didn’t. In Rome, we have a bit of American TV but it’s a small selection and always a bit behind. Anyway, it appears that in the time I’ve been away from the States, one Buddy Valastro has become a big time baker with three TV shows–even on my own limited Italian version of network programming! Is he the new Rachel Ray by way of New Jersey? I figured there must be something pretty great about him so I tuned in to Cucina con Buddy as his cooking show is called here, and indeed got a great idea for dinner.
We’re on “vacation” this week, on the southern coast of Italy. It’s our first trip with all three rascals so I’m out of the kitchen. So far, I’d say everything is gorgeous and exhausting, sometimes both at once. Meanwhile, I saved up a couple of fresh ideas to post while we’re gone. Be back soon…trust me, I’m not sure I have the stamina to do this for longer than a week!
SOME KIDS JUST DON’T LIKE VEGGIES EXCEPT…peas. If this sounds familiar, this idea’s for you. Try an updated (meaning simple yet satisfying) version of stroganoff. This 5-ingredient dish will be done in 20 minutes but that’s not the best part. Between the tangy, buttery flavor of sour cream and the world’s most kid-friendly veggie, it’s bound to be as big of a hit at your place as it was here. [Read more...]
IT DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER. And in my condition (
insane 36 weeks pregnant with number 3), there’s nothing better. Using leftover pork roast, plus a little cheddar cheese, I diced my way to a simple dinner for four.
DON’T ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER SETTINGS. This pasta is indeed a bit green. That’s because it’s got built-in veggies (spinach and zucchini) and the even more exciting news is this: our kids love it. [Read more...]
WHEN I SAW PHOEBE CLOSE HER EYES and suck up each noodle, one by one, I knew we had a hit. Even better, she actually ate ALL of the vegetables in this dish, including sworn enemies such as zucchini and carrots. So, yes, we’ll be making this again.
THIS DINNER WAS DONE IN 15 MINUTES. As if that wasn’t enough of a mini miracle for this mom, it was also eaten. Happily. Heartily. And so another spin-off series begins… Get ready kids. There’s more pasta on the way! And more, and more…
BARBARA KINGSOLVER, in the gorgeous memoir, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle“, says her family eats pizza every Friday. Homemade pizza (her husband whips up the dough), and while toppings always vary, never having to think about “What’s for dinner?” just simplifies their week. I think it’s brilliant.
I WAS ON MY OWN for dinner the other night with the kids, so I knew it had to be good. Wary of my two-highchairs-to-one-adult ratio, this wasn’t the time to experiment with exotic flavors. In times like these (or when I’m so tired that I might tip over, not unlike a giant Weeble Wobble in terms of shape and physical prowess), I pull out a trusted favorite: burgers. Or in this case, a spin-off of a dinner that almost always gets eaten. [Read more...]
NOTHING SAYS SPRING IS HERE LIKE the arrival of asparagus. And it’s delicious, so I’m in. Actually the little guys did pretty well with the asparagus pizza. They each ate a piece or so, and in this house, that’s a win. (Plus Phoebe loved helping make this simple dish.) Mixed with creamy ricotta full of garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest, this pizza was fresh and hearty at the same time. [Read more...]
GRATE EVERYTHING, I say. That’s my philosophy for “Taco Night”, which has actually become quesadilla night–the one that’s easier to eat and less likely to fall on the floor wins in my house. And since our ethnic food offerings are spare in Rome, to say the least, these flour tortillas are much easier to find than crispy shells. Another thing I love about a Mexican meal is how easy it is to slide in a few veggies without anyone ever being the wiser. That’s where the grater comes in. [Read more...]
CALL IT A VARIATION of green eggs and ham. We do scrambled eggs or a fritatta (baked in the oven for the last 10 minutes to get fluffy) often. It’s easy, inexpensive, healthy and the toddler likes it. Sold!
Today’s version included pancetta and spinach (frozen, organic) sauteed in olive oil then whisked eggs, milk, salt and pepper. But sometimes it’s sausage, eggs, peppers…really anything can go in there. And because Estelle loves them so, we added oven roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary today too.
In terms of keeping things on the better-for-you side, I try to keep the ratio of veggies to eggs about even, use cheese or meat sparingly and almost always add spinach.
It’s also equally versatile when it comes to the time of day. We’ll have a scramble for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ditto for pancakes.
PHOEBE’S NOT EATING ANYTHING with “salad” on top, but minus the offensive greens she tucked into one of these last night with gusto. Thanks to *Jessica Seinfeld’s sneaky trick, this tangy sauce includes freshly steamed and pureed broccoli, which doubled as a baby food side dish for Estelle. Paired with our new family favorite, roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic, the meal was a hit. Coincidentally, Paul walked in from work just as our plates were hitting the table. Cheering ensued but I like to think they were excited about the food, too. [Read more...]
I’M ABOUT TO SAY SOMETHING that gives me a ridiculous sense of pride and satisfaction. Our family loves cauliflower. However, I’m sure it won’t last (See the ever-evolving What Works Now, What Doesn’t Work Now lists to the right… Sigh.) and they’ll really only eat/enjoy it two ways. The first is roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. With browned edges, every bite is crispy, salty and all of the cabbage-y taste disappears completely. It’s wonderful with any roasted meat (especially since the oven’s already on = easy.) The second option is mixed with pasta, cheese and turkey sausage. I originally saw this recipe in an issue of Food Network Magazine, just after Estelle was born last year. We tried it out while my in-laws were visiting to help, and despite my husband and father-in-laws’ initial doubts it was a hit! We’ve been making it ever since. You know who likes it the most these days? Eleven-month-old Estelle. I think she knows it’s in her honor… [Read more...]
WELL, I REALLY MESSED THIS ONE UP. Let’s just say feeding the toddler two pieces of peanut butter toast 90 minutes before dinner wasn’t a recipe for success. Even when said dinner involved pasta and barbecue sauce, two things she holds dear. It’s a shame though because this was so good! We’ll try again another time and do our best not to sabotage the whole thing. On that note, I’ve got a new idea. My goal is to limit the after-nap snack to fruit. It’s light, healthy and only filling for the moment. I’m pretty sure this won’t fly but we’ll see. Maybe I can get away with yogurt… I don’t know. Anyway, back to the noodles. [Read more...]
IF I’VE LEARNED ONE THING SO FAR, it’s this: figure out what works and do more of it. We’re all about spin-offs here, and this dinner is the Laverne & Shirley of pasta. We know Phoebe devours spaghetti with red sauce, white sauce, cheese, or really any topping. Today’s challenge: introducing Asian flavors. It sounds a little daunting but the secret is simple. Use regular pasta the toddler/kid/husband/other picky eater already knows (and loves), then go light and mild on the sauce. As usual I threw in as many veggies as I could fit into this white ramekin but you could go with all peas, only carrots, just zucchini–just pick something that your kids already like. If you’re experimenting with a new flavor like we were, now isn’t necessarily the time to throw in a curve ball of new veggies too. While I insist that Phoebe learn to be open to new things, I’m not a tyrant, or a martyr for that matter. And it worked…