It’s All About The Dip, No Lettuce!

Last week walking into my kitchen I was greeted by a strange sight. Liam was standing on a chair inside the refrigerator rifling through the top shelves. When I asked what he was trying to reach he said he wanted ingredients to cook his favorite salad dressing. How proud was I? Earlier in the week I had taught Liam a recipe for “Russian dressing” that my mother had passed down to me. Simply mix mayo and ketchup and voila! Two things every child loves combined to create a pink dipping sauce.

Clearly, our dressing is a loose interpretation of the real thing but it works for us. As for a real salad I’ve tried to introduce all sorts of lettuce with little success. So I’ve lowered my expectations and we now include any cut up vegetable with a dressing as a “salad.”

At our house, it’s not about the vegetable, it’s all about the dip. Even though Liam probably ate an obscene amount of mayonnaise that morning he also at two whole cucumbers in the process. A small victory for me and some green for him!

Sorta Salad

A salad that combines fruit, veg, healthy fat and some protein!

Ingredients

1 cup cucumber, diced

1 cup apple, diced (we prefer Fuji, Gala, or Honeycrisp for crunch!)

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

Dressing

Juice of one lemon

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp honey mustard

¼ cup olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Toss the cucumbers, apples and parmesan together in a mixing bowl and set aside.

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Whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, honey mustard and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of the dressing over the cucumber/apple mixture and toss to combine.

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Refrigerate the remainder of the salad dressing in an airtight container. The dressing will keep for two weeks, just shake well before serving.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 8): “Yeah, I like it”

Liam (age 6): “Tastes like fruit”

Dylan (age 6): “It is just okay”

A Fish’s Life

It’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to our fish, Matt Jr. today. Matthew won him last summer at a camp carnival. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he came bouncing off the camp bus holding up the little baggie housing his new pet. Based on my own childhood experiences with goldfish, I wasn’t expecting Matt Jr. to live longer than a few weeks but he surprised us all by lasting over eight months.

Matt Jr. was the perfect pet. No walks in the rain, no mess to clean, no hair to vacuum off the couch, no chewed up shoes, just a bowl of water and a small container of fish flakes that seemed to last forever. He provided endless entertainment, until the boys eventually moved on to other interests. After that, I’m not even sure if we fed him every day…

In his death, Matt Jr. might have been even more entertaining to the boys. His untimely passing was not met with tears. Instead, there were shrieks of joy and a call of “Yeah, we’re gonna flush him down the toilet!” Not exactly a normal reaction but everyone deals with death in their own way I suppose.

The ceremony, although a bit on the giggly side, was brief and heartfelt. Everyone said a few words and Liam concluded with a “Good job Matt Jr.!” Then it was time to flush. I’m not exactly sure how Matt Jr. ended up going from his bowl to the bathroom floor but eventually in the toilet he went. FYI -it’s not easy to pick a goldfish up off the floor.

Matt Jr. is now on his way to the Great Big Sea, via our bathroom pipes. And now that summer is on the horizon the boys are hoping to win another fish to take his place.

In honor of our beloved fish, we’re cooking up flounder – a bit morbid but the boys didn’t seem to mind one bit.

Garlic Tomato Flounder

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. capers, plus 1 Tbsp. of juice from jar

½ onion, tiny dice

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup olive oil

Zest of one lemon, plus 4 slices

2 lbs. flounder

Salt & Pepper

2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the garlic, capers w/juice, onions, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and lemon zest. Set aside.

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Lightly oil a baking pan large enough to fit the fish in a single layer. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Then place filets in the pan and spoon the tomato mixture over the top. Lay the lemon slices over the fish.

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Bake in oven until fish is flaky, about 30 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “So good! I squeeze the lemon on it right?”

Liam (age 6): “Take those tomatoes off”

Dylan (age 6): “The best fish in the world”

This recipe is dedicated to Matt Jr.

Matzo Meal

It’s been over a week since our Passover Seder. A box of unopened matzo is still staring at me from the kitchen counter where it sits patiently waiting to be eaten. Matzo in our house has almost become a holiday decoration like a tree ornament at Christmas. Something to be pulled out for the season and then packed away for the next year.

Before I went to put this matzo away I realized that the expiration date simply read PASSOVER 2015. In other words, the manufacturers want to guarantee I am going to buy another box next year. I am skeptical that matzo ever actually expires though. It would be impossible to get any staler than it already is!

At our Seder one of our guests was raving about making lasagna with matzo. I was sure a dish with cheese, a breadish product and some sauce could work at our house, so instead of dumping the box in the trash I opened it and gave it a go.

*Afikomen Lasagna

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. chopped beef or turkey

1 cup shredded carrots

1 garlic clove, minced

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. basil

1 Tbsp. oregano

Salt & Pepper

1 container ricotta cheese, 16 oz

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp. parsley

2 cups shredded mozzarella, ½ cup reserved

¼ cup parmesan cheese

5-6 full size matzo crackers

Method

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped meat, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and carrots are softened and starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and oregano to the meat mixture. Bring tomato mixture to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

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Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, and mozzarella cheese.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the lasagna, ladle about ½ cup of the meat sauce onto the bottom of a 13X9 inch baking dish. Arrange the matzo crackers in a single layer to cover the bottom. Each layer uses about 1 ½ sheets of matzo.

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Next spread about a cup of the meat over the matzo “noodles”. Then add a cup of the ricotta cheese over that.

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Add another layer of matzo. Repeat twice. Top the lasagna with the remaining sauce, reserved mozzarella and sprinkle on the parmesan cheese.

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Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. If making ahead you can cover and refrigerate or freeze unbaked lasagna. Use a layer of plastic wrap before you cover with foil. Remove the plastic wrap before baking!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “There are matzo balls in this?”

Liam (age 6): “Pretty good”

Dylan (age 6): “I taste the afikomen but don’t see it”

*During Passover it is customary to play hide and seek with a piece of Matzo called the Afikomen. Children are rewarded with a small prize when they find the hidden piece of matzo and return it to the table. I decided to name our lasagna recipe after this tradition to see if my kids could “find” the matzo.

For my local readers:

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Vegan For Dummies

Inspired by my recent tasting at a local vegetarian restaurant I decided to attempt some vegan baking. I’ve been working on this post for several months because to be honest everything I made tasted awful!

There’s more to being a vegan than just not eating meat. Going vegan also means no eggs, milk or butter. Not even honey to sweeten things up. No animal products whatsoever, which poses a challenge from a baking standpoint.

Finding an egg substitute was the first order of business. Initially I used an egg replacer which consisted of potato starch and tapioca flour, along with some chemical preservatives. Yuck! The ingredients were a bit of a turn-off. Plus it seemed very un-vegan to use a product that was so processed.

I decided to try a more natural route. With a little more research I found several options. Agar agar was one but way too expensive. And since I know it’s not going to become a pantry staple I decided to go with a more wallet friendly option, ground flax seeds. Ground flax seeds combined with water act as an egg would in most recipes.

So with that decided I moved on to the milk. This was an easy swap. Almond milk, soy milk or even coconut milk would all work. I chose the almond since it seemed the closest consistency to whole milk. The butter was also an easy trade. Vegetable oil or coconut oil are both perfect choices.

Next, the sweet component. I wanted our cupcakes to be low on sugar content so even though granulated sugar passes the vegan test I played around with other sweeteners. First maple syrup, then applesauce. Both created weird textures in the finished product. Then I tried bananas and ended up with some seriously chewy cupcakes. They were good but way too dense. Sticking with the fruit theme I pureed some frozen blueberries and mixed that with a bit of sugar. I think I hit on the perfect combination.

This might not be the best vegan cupcake recipe in the world but it was pretty good for a virgin vegan. And my kids ate blueberries and flax seeds without complaint!

Very Vegan Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose fine too)

¼ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

3 Tbsp. warm water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup almond milk, or soy

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 cup frozen blueberries, pureed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. (Makes about 18 mini cupcakes or six large muffins.

Combine flax seeds with the water and set aside for at least five minutes.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl add the oil, milk, flax seed mixture, sugar, blueberries and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together. The batter will be on the thick side. If it is too thick simply add a little bit more milk.

Spoon cupcake batter into muffin tins.

IMG_2184Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, and 18-20 for large muffins. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely on a wire rack. Muffins can be stored in airtight containers for several days.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I wish you didn’t tell us this was vegan”

Liam (age 5): “Too chocolately”

Dylan (age 5): “I like these!”

Nibbles & Noshes

Changing your family’s eating habits in a world filled with processed food is not easy. Where do you even begin? I say start small and take one step at a time. Trying to completely overhaul your family’s diet at once is near impossible. Why not just start with the snacks?

We here at the House of Bedlam spend the majority of our waking hours at ice skating rinks. Which means we encounter lots of vending machines and snack bars with wonderful assortments of decadent treats. Did you know vending machines speak in high pitch voices that only children can hear? The voices are saying “drive your parents crazy until they give you some change!” This has not been scientifically proven – YET…

That vending machine full of colorful chips and candy is hard to compete with. To be honest, I have a hard time walking by without gazing into the glass to see what the choices are. If I gave in every time they asked, my kids would gladly live on vending machine fare. I try and stick to the 80/20 plan and have healthy snack alternatives for the times I don’t cave in.

One of my go to snacks is granola and I’ve come up with a recipe that satisfies their sweet tooth and need for something crunchy. Our secret is to add in steel cut oats for an extra crunch.

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This recipe can be tailored with your family’s favorite nuts or dried fruits. Make a huge batch and have some on hand when that vending machine starts talking to your kids!

The Crunchiest Granola Ever

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. honey

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 ¼ cups Old-fashioned oats (not instant)

¾ cup steel cut oats

1 egg white (optional)

¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)

¼ cup raisins (optional)

– Recipe by Elaine Studdert

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Add both oats and stir until coated.

IMG_2061Add the egg white and stir until well combined. The egg binds the granola in large clusters which is great for snacking. Just omit if you want the granola to be more like cereal.

Spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer, spreading it with a fork to leave clusters. Do not press down.

IMG_2064Bake for 40-45 minutes until browned. The granola will be soft when you remove it from the oven but will crisp as it cools. After granola is cooled break into chunks and mix in the cranberries and raisins.

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Store in airtight container for up to two weeks. If it lasts that long…

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I like the flavor”

Liam (age 5): “Tastes like cereal”

Dylan (age 5): “Too crunchy”

 

For my local readers:

Upcoming talks w/Jen Dorf, Integrative Holistic Health Coach

Tues 3/3 Central School 7:30pm

Thurs. 3/12 Athleta in Scarsdale 6:30pm

How To Make Meal Time Connections With Your Family:

Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting a meal on the table while juggling numerous activities with the kids?  Have you fantasized about enjoying a meal together as a family around the dining room table rather than at the counter or in the car?  Imagine the entire family sharing the mealtime duties so you can all enjoy one another with no distractions. Kids yearn for the family meal and studies show that there is a lower incidence of eating disorders and alcohol/drug abuse when families dine together on a regular basis.  Many of us have never learned how to make this happen! Join Jen Dorf as she shares simple and fun tips to connect with your kids at meal time.  Quick and easy recipes to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and age appropriate duties will have the entire family engaged at mealtime happy to participate in the process.  You and your family will enjoy each other around the table more regularly.

To learn more visit: Jen Dorf Wellness