Carrots Are Cool, Beets Not So Much

Those little “baby” carrots you see at the supermarket weren’t always so cool. Not until a farmer named Mike Yurosek realized that he could bring his farm’s carrot waste to an end by peeling and cutting misshaped or broken carrots down to bite size pieces. I’m sure that most kids think the same as mine, carrots grow in this tiny size and are rounded on the edges. With a little help from Jim Dunn, former Coca-cola executive, and a 25 million dollar ad campaign, “baby” carrots are now one of the most popular snack foods for kids.

Other fruits/vegetables that seem to have reached cool status among kids are grape tomatoes, sliced apples (I grudgingly give McDonald’s credit for this one) and edamame (my kids ate a ton when I bought them in little Kung Fu Panda packs). Seems like a fairly easy formula. Process vegetable into a fun shape and/or put them in cool packaging.

How about beets?

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They don’t look so good before you peel them but after they’re roasted and cut into bite size chunks, it seems like the type of food that could potentially have kid appeal. The fact that they’re not green is a great selling point! I don’t have a 25 million dollar budget nor the endorsement of some cool cartoon character so I’m hoping with the help of cheese and one of their favorite nuts, I can sell my kids on beets this week.

Three C’s Roasted Beets (Cheese & Cashews & Currants)

Ingredients

2-3 large red beets

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp honey mustard

1 tsp maple syrup

Salt & pepper

3 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

2 Tbsp cashews, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp currants, or raisins

 

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a shallow dish with aluminum foil.

Wash and scrub beets to remove dirt. Cut off top and bottoms.

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Cut beets in quarters and place in shallow dish. Drizzle with some olive oil and toss lightly.

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Place another sheet of foil on top and seal edges all around. Bake in oven for 1 to ½ hours depending on the size of the beets, until fork tender.

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Meanwhile, in a small bowl prepare the dressing. Whisk together the lemon juice, honey mustard, and maple syrup. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and mix until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Extra dressing can be refrigerated for up to three weeks)

Allow beets to cool and peel off the skin. Cut into bite size chunks and add to medium mixing bowl. Toss with about two tablespoons of dressing. Top with the crumbled goat cheese, chopped cashews, and currants.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Goat cheese?!”

Liam (age 5): “This cheese is too goatey!”

Dylan (age 5): “Goat cheese is for goats”

I didn’t anticipate how amusing goat cheese would be to my kids. Needless to say, they never even tried the beets!

 

 

Menus for Kids

Ordering from a kids’ menu used to be easy when my kids couldn’t read. But then 1st grade happened and my son learned to, so there’s no pulling the wool over his eyes anymore. Now he can plainly see the unhealthy options he has to choose from and he loves them all!

In general, I’m not a big fan of kids’ menus. No matter what style of restaurant you go to they don’t offer much in the way of variety. If you’re eating Italian, Asian or Indian the options are inevitably chicken fingers, mac & cheese, pizza, and maybe a hot dog. Most offer a selection of sides, the common ones being French fries, steamed tasteless broccoli, carrot sticks or, if you get lucky, fresh fruit.

Eating out is a chance for kids to try something novel. It’s a great opportunity to taste foods out of their comfort zone, experience a new flavor or cuisine. Instead, it has become standard practice for restaurants to homogenize what our kids eat. Personally I think we should give kids more credit, maybe they don’t want to eat chicken fingers and fries at every meal.

Once in a blue moon we stumble upon a restaurant that makes an attempt to offer interesting and unique menu options for children. Just recently we ate at a place that offered shrimp, cod, and black bean burgers (along with the usual suspects too) in a kid size portion and price. A black bean cheeseburger and a garden salad would not have been my prediction, but that’s what my son ordered. And my little guys ordered the shrimp. They were thrilled to have so many choices.

I’m not sure what they put in those black bean burgers but they were delicious! For once I was a little envious of the kids menu…

Bedlam Bean Burgers

Ingredients

1 can black beans

1 can chick peas

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

Juice of 1 lime

1 large shallot or 2 small, finely diced

1 small red pepper, finely diced

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs, plain

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp black pepper

8 hamburger buns

8 slices American cheese (optional)

Method

Rinse and drain beans and chick peas. Add both to a food processor with the lime juice and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Pulse until the beans are a chunky paste, scraping down sides of processor as needed. In a large mixing bowl combine the bean mixture with the shallots, pepper, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, cumin, and black pepper.

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Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and form patties about ½ inch thick. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add four of the patties and cook until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining patties and oil.

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For cheesy bean burgers, add a slice of cheese to the patties in the last 2 minutes of cooking so the cheese melts.

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Add to bun and serve!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I like it better than the restaurant because it’s not falling apart!”

Dylan (age 5): “I only like the bread”

Liam (age 5): “I only like the cheese”

1 out of 3 ain’t bad!

 

 

Living In A Processed World

For the better part of two years I’ve been trying to feed my kids real food, nothing from a box, but to be honest we fall off the wagon all the time. It’s almost impossible to completely take processed food out of their diet. Unless I want to homeschool my kids or never let them attend a birthday party, it’s pretty hard to avoid. And homeschooling ain’t gonna happen ever!

As a mom of three I get why fast/processed food has become a staple in so many diets. Life is busy, there’s not a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. It’s easy to see that grabbing a box of food from the pantry would be the more desirable choice. But when I read some of the ingredients on those colorful packages it makes me pause. There must be a way to make slow food a little faster…

Take mac & cheese for example. My kids are convinced that the boxed stuff is the “real mac & cheese.” They actually believe that the orange powder is genuine cheese, not a chemical cheese food with a huge list of ingredients I can barely pronounce.

But I think I’ve found a recipe that’s just as easy to make and tastes way better. No boiling pasta required! I can’t take credit for this idea – I saw it in BonAppetit magazine months ago. It’s as close as possible to the “real thing”. And I’m only using ingredients I can pronounce!

“Real” Mac & Cheese (adapted from BonAppetit)

Ingredients

¼ cup butter, unsalted (1/2 stick)

¼ cup flour

3 cups whole milk, or 2%

1 Tbsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 lb. elbow or ditalini pasta

2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. (Use a large enough pan to hold six cups of liquid.) Add flour to melted butter and whisk together for about a minute.

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Whisk in milk and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring often, until sauce gets slightly thick and glossy, about 15 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, remove from heat.

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Toss pasta and 1 ½ cups of the cheese in a large shallow baking dish.

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Pour milk mixture over the pasta. Do not stir! The pasta should be completely submerged. It will seem like a ton of liquid but don’t worry it will become cheesy and gooey and yummy.

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Cover the pasta with foil and bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered until pasta is tender, edges are bubbly, and top is golden brown.

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Let sit for 10 minutes, then dive in!

And the VERDICT is:

We were thrilled to have some guest tasters this week-

Big sis (age 8): “Best mac and cheese ever!”

Little sis (age 5): “Thank you so much – we love it”

Mom: “I’m inhaling it too and I was supposed to start a diet today”

No more boxed mac & cheese for us!

 

 

Modern Day Tupperware Parties

Tupperware parties have changed a lot since the 50’s when they first started popping up in living rooms across America. I vaguely remember my mother hosting a party or two back in the day but up until recently had never attended one.

Last month I attend a Pampered Chef party. For those of you not familiar with the company, they sell all sorts of handy dandy kitchen gadgets in a Tupperware party format. Same idea, just different products.

This particular party was for a good cause so I went to support my friend. Prior to going I had it set in my head that I would only buy a few new things – no way was I going to get sucked in by some pushy party consultant. But she was just so darn good! As I watched her demo one product after another my purchase order grew longer and longer with things I couldn’t live without (although up until now I had).

When it was my turn to check out I came to my senses and considerably narrowed down my list. Although I still made the minimum amount required for the free ice cream scoop…

This week I’m making a dish with my brand new julienne vegetable peeler. What can I say? I had to have it!

Zucchini Spaghetti

Ingredients:

½ Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp Panko breadcrumbs, seasoned

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

1 large zucchini or 2 small, julienned

Salt & pepper

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated, reserve some for garnish

½ box spaghetti, 8 oz.

Method:

Heat butter in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook until toasted. Remove breadcrumbs from pan and set aside. Wipe out skillet, add one tablespoon of the olive oil, heat to medium high. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the julienned zucchini and cook until caramelized, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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In the meantime, heat a large pot of salted water for the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, as instructed on box. Reserve one cup of the pasta water to add later, if needed. Drain the pasta and add to the zucchini and garlic. Toss with remaining olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Add a little bit of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry.

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Garnish with remaining cheese and sprinkle on the toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “This kind of cheese smells funny, but tastes good”

Liam (age 5): “I’ll eat a little, I’m in a bad mood”

Dylan (age 5): “I wish this was mac & cheese”

I have to say, this dish went over better than expected, and although lots of zucchini got picked out, most of it was gone by the end of dinner.

Now I just have to come up with a use for my new mini spatula!

 

 

 

Tales Of A Reluctant Hockey Mom

Tag was the only sport I played growing up so it’s kind of ironic that I ended up having three boys. And all of them are showing an acute interest in sports just like their father. So by default I’ve become a hockey mom, a kickball coach, and occasional ball girl. On most weekends you’ll find me standing in an outfield trying not to get clocked in the head by a fly ball.

I’m not expected to recite player stats but I do need to know what teams are playing in the Stanley Cup, the SuperBowl and the World Series. Statistics and all that other stuff falls in Brian’s camp. The food falls in mine. So even if I can’t tell the difference between a tight end and a wide receiver at least I can whip up some fun snacks for game days. Which, in my opinion, is even more important than who’s playing!

Football has chicken wings, baseball has hot dogs, but for the recent Stanley Cup Finals I was stumped. After a serious huddle, the boys came up with some great ideas: something cold on a stick, round like a hockey puck, or Stanley Cup cakes. I got this! We couldn’t help the Rangers get that third goal in overtime but at least we scored on the food front.

Hockey Pops – Strawberry, Peaches & Cream & Chocolate

Ingredients (Recipe yield: 6 small popsicles)

1 cup fresh strawberries, diced (or peaches)

or

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. cane sugar

½-cup unsweetened coconut milk *

Small Dixie cups

Popsicle sticks

*I would recommend using full fat coconut milk for a creamy texture. When you open the can of coconut milk, thick cream will be on the top – so it needs to be mixed before using.

Method

Add sugar to the strawberries (or peaches), toss to coat and let sit for fifteen minutes.

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Add strawberries and coconut milk to a food processor and mix until smooth. Do not over process if you want pops to have chunks of fruit. For the chocolate pops simply whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and coconut milk. Pour the fruit mixture into the Dixie cups about 2/3 of the way full.

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Cover with foil and pierce a stick in the center.

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Place in freezer for 3-4 hours. When the popsicles are fully set, tear away the cup and enjoy!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Tastes like a cookie in ice cream”

Liam (age 5): “It’s much gooder now that it’s frozen”

Dylan (age 5): “I can’t believe we made these!”

Chocolate was the clear winner. Even if hockey season is over, I think we’ll be making these all summer!