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!


1 cup cucumber, diced

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

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese


Juice of one lemon

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp honey mustard

¼ cup olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste


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


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.



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”



Matthew lost his third tooth this week and was giddy with excitement. That night, he jumped right into bed; there were no pleas to watch more TV, no arguments about brushing teeth, no last minute trips to the kitchen for water. At first light, he popped out of his room waving the dollar bill he had earned from the Tooth Fairy.  I was half asleep but I do believe the clock read 5:15….

It is hard to remember that magical moment you experience in childhood when you awake to discover money under your pillow; proof the Tooth Fairy really does exist. But as a parent I have discovered it is just as enjoyable to be on the other side of the fence because you are now in on the joke. When we tiptoed into Matthew’s bedroom to make the exchange, it was so hard to hold back our laughter and not wake him. We conducted the transaction, dollar for tooth, and ran out giggling when it was done. And of course, we both feigned amazement the next morning when he proudly showed us our his dollar.

Matthew has five more teeth loose at the moment. He is already counting the money. The other day he mentioned a friend had told him that his two big front teeth were worth 10 dollars each because they were the big ones! We gently broke it to him that it must have been a fairy tale his friend heard; it could not be true.  Having three kids, tooth fairy money adds up, we have college tuition to think about! Any parent out there reading this giving over a dollar per tooth please keep it on the down low…

I had planned to make corn on the cob this week but due to the Matthew’s lack of chewing abilities I had to make a few adjustments – I ended up doing sort of a corn salad instead.

Corn Crab Salad w/Pepita Pesto


Pepita Pesto

1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed

1/4-cup grated Pecorino Romano

1/4-cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) *

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2-cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

* pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto but most any nut will do, pepitas work very well and are a lot less expensive.


Corn Crab Salad

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 ears of corn, kernels removed, about 2 cups

2 Tbsp pepita pesto (see above)

1 cup crab meat (optional)



For the pesto:

Combine the parsley, Romano, pepitas, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until it is a paste.


Add olive oil and pulse until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the nuts are already salted you probably don’t have to add any more salt. Refrigerate remaining pesto for up to one week.


For the corn salad:

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the corn and cook until warmed through, about two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pepita pesto.


Lastly, gently fold in the crabmeat. Shrimp would work well in this recipe too.

Serve warm or cold.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “I like a good corn”

Dylan (age 4): “I ate everything in a row, this, this and even this leaf”

Liam (age 4): “ Did not like the things in this!”

A so-so verdict. I used the pesto on pasta the following night and it got a much better reception!

“Little boys don’t eat salad”

Last week, our salad experiment was kind of a bust. So this week I am taking my big sister’s advice, which means I can blame her if it goes awry! Her suggestion was to make a version of panzanella salad.

A panzanella is essentially a salad of stale bread, tomatoes and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. That is the base of it and other ingredients can be added to make it more of a meal.  I am going to include mozzarella cheese, roasted peppers and some prosciutto. A salad with cheese and bread – might just work!

Don’t have any stale bread? Not a problem. I had some pancetta bread, fresh from a trip to Arthur Avenue (the Bronx’s “Little Italy”), which I cut into bite size pieces and toasted. Any bread will do, just make sure it is the consistency of a crouton. I also crisped up the prosciutto and crumbled it to mimic bacon bits. For the tomatoes I used the smallest, sweetest variety I could find and since I had lots of salty ingredients, I went with a honey Dijon dressing for some sweetness.

This is such a simple salad to prepare and extremely easy to manipulate according to different tastes. I think I covered all the bases so let’s get to the tasting!

Mozzarella Panzanella Salad


6 thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto

1 cup stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 roasted red pepper, diced into bite size pieces

1 roasted yellow pepper, diced into bite size pieces

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 lemon

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake in oven approximately 15-18 minutes. Let cool and crumble into small pieces. (Can be done ahead – refrigerate in airtight container)

If you are starting with fresh bread, place bread on a baking sheet and bake in oven with prosciutto, approximately 10 minutes, until toasted. Let cool before adding to salad. (Can be done ahead- store in airtight container)


Combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and proscuitto crumble in a large mixing bowl.

For the dressing whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Use about 3 Tbsp of the dressing to drizzle over the salad and refrigerate the rest. You can keep the dressing for several weeks, just shake well before serving.


Lastly, sprinkle the fresh basil over the top of the panzanella and serve!



And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “I don’t like the peppers but cheese, bread and bacon, THUMBS UP!

Liam (age 3): “This salad makes me mad”

Dylan (age 3): “Little boys don’t eat salad!” “I like the sauce you made but the salad part tastes like a leaf – yuck”

Okay, I confess, I did promise a cookie for dessert if they tried the salad. But amazingly enough, once they did eat some they seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Even Liam, although he would NEVER admit it!

The leftovers

The leftovers