Mi So Hongry

As a salute to the end of our long winter confinement, we seem to have contracted the latest public incubation system virus – and this time it’s a stomach thing. Oh mercy. Mr. Little Sis was the first to fall, then my little boy, then yesterday while checking out at Costco I succumbed. I imagine it is a matter of days (hours) before my daughter gets knocked out as well. Cooking for a family of four can be a challenge. Cooking for people who feel awful is an entirely different puzzle. While the one poor soul who’s suffering really doesn’t want anything – or just wants to test the waters, the others who aren’t yet affected are starving and ready for dinner.

IMG_0252My solution to this was to devise a soup that would allow each person to cater to their level of hunger/food readiness. But what to use for broth? And then I saw it. The miso paste container sitting there so innocently in the fridge. I’d bought it to make this delis cashew based cheddar and for whatever reason, didn’t even consider making soup with it even though miso soup is one of those rare birds that gets 100% positive response at my table.

A quick perusal of the internet and some cookbooks and I was off to the races. The beauty of this idea is that it’s totally variable, kind of like a soup version of our Varia-Bowl.

Miso BrothIMG_0255

  • 2-3 t miso paste per cup of water (I used 2 for a mild flavor)
  • However many cups of water you need to make enough soup.

That’s it. You boil the water and then add the miso paste. Yes, it’s that simple. No the paste won’t dissolve completely.  If you’ve eaten miso soup in a restaurant, you’ve seen the same thing – thicker broth on the bottom, thinner broth on the top.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, assemble your add-ins. If you want noodles, you should obviously start them first as well.

Our Add-InsIMG_0260

  • cooked rice noodles
  • thinly sliced mushrooms
  • shaved carrots
  • chopped cilantro
  • spinach
  • tofu

Others That Would Be Great

  • seaweed, of just about any kind
  • basil
  • lemon juice
  • red pepper
  • rice
  • spring onion

IMG_0247 IMG_0249 IMG_0256

You really could put lots of things in there, and the fun of it for us was building that bowl of soup right at the table.  I dished up broth for everyone and then we each constructed our own miso bowl, perfectly suited and seasoned for our health level and taste preferences. Delish!

The Overt and Covert Nutrifying of Little People

I have so enjoyed the feel of little tiny hands in mine as we cross the street or step into the creek.  And my11 year old seemed to be influenced by the little ones to allow more physical contact than is generally deemed ‘cool.’

We also had some lovely food moments and learned / re-learned a couple of lessons about getting kids to eat what you want them to eat.

Children will often be more adventurous or willing with non-parental adults.  Little Sis’ daughter is quite picky but ate with much less fuss and whining when Little sis was not around and so I was directing the oral traffic.  The change in her behavior was a matter of degree and nothing to do with tactics or skills, she just didn’t push the envelope so far with the non-Mommy, especially when Mommy was not around for her to needle.

And of course little white lies are a wonderful thing.  I made a smoothie of
2 cups squashed down kale
1 mango
2 & 1/2 frozen bananas
about 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
and enough unsweetened almond milk to make it go.
Then I told the little people it was green because it was a ‘green mango smoothie.’  I even had a green-ish mango in the fruit bowl to demonstrate the green.  After they had declared the smoothie delicious and were well past halfway, I allowed my 11 year old to let them in on the other contributor of  ‘green=ness’.  They continued drinking and professed delight in the concept despite having fussed previously over green smoothies that were too green in color.  Ah yes, the things an aunt can get away with.

We have had similar experiences with my son seeming to be more flexible, reasonable and cheerful with other adults.  In fact Bro-in-Law helped with some ‘Tude problems during the visit!  Thanks!

And I’m going to take this opportunity to shamelessly self-promote (although it’s free, so maybe that’s okay) a couple of songs from a CD I’m working on of health songs for kids.  Having 5 year olds around and an upcoming performance at a festival on a Blackberry Farm has re-invigorated the project.  I thought the songs might be of use to you, or to folks you know who are trying to indoctrinate little people to eat Real Food.

Here are links to a couple of songs.

Real Food

Built for Motion

Hope they are fun and useful to some little people in your lives.  They’re gonna need all the help we can give to learn about Real Food and health.  It takes a healthy village….

Please let us know if you have any other ideas about teaching kids good eating habits!

Enabling the Lunch-able

My kid would give one of his Wii games to bring a ‘Lunchable’ to school.  He’s offered to pay for one with his own money!!

How did this happen?  Is it purely rebellion against the ‘healthwhack’ Mom?  He actually has fairly refined taste: eats a lot of things other kids won’t even try and when he eats junk food he is satisfied fairly quickly and does not overdo it.  He has been fairly well trained.  For now.  But there is something about the little box in a box with a little of this and a little of that.  You can put stuff together from the different pockets!  You can eat them in any order you want!  You will be the envy of all you survey!  Or at least of the pepperoni crowd. Continue reading

Joy Just Outside the Edges

I have a secret. I’m taking a dance class. Ok, so I guess it’s not a secret anymore, but I’m still taking a dance class. It has been approximately 8 million years since I last took a dance class and that particular class was modern dance. This class is tap and ballet. I am really reaching here. I am pretty far out of my comfort zone, although my classmates are all really nice and the instructor is WONDERFUL. But even with all of the discomfort at being completely lost for much of the class, there’s this familiar joy that comes from just being in that space, in front of those mirrors, working those muscles. Laughing and groaning with the other students. I am stretched, but I am reveling in it, especially the ballet, which is a little more familiar, and so far, well slower.

That’s all well and good… isn’t this about food? Well, yes. It occurs to me that like my decision to take this dance class (which is surely a good one), sometimes our greatest joys can be found by stepping outside of our comfort zones. We cannot grow if we stay inside the lines, can we? The same holds true for our relationsihip with food. Now and again when circumstance and opportunity present themselves, our food experience needs room to grow – we need to explore that area outside of our comfort zones.

We were presented with such an opportunity this Easter. In the past, we have always gone to my mother’s house for Easter dinner, but alas, this year my poor Mom had a fever and was coughing up a storm, and because she remembers what it was like to have a house full of sick children, she kindly suggested that we delay our Easter celebration. While I was in no mood to run out an pick up a ham at the last minute, I did feel like we ought to do something a little special for dinner. And so, my extremely talented husband and I decided that we would have our usual Sunday pasta because it is homemade pasta, it is delicious pasta, and because we all love pasta. BUT in celebration of Spring and all things green, and a particularly large mound of spinach in the fridge, we would holiday it up by making spinach noodles.

My Husband’s Glorious Easter Pasta

Aren’t they beautiful? We loosely followed the recipe from emmycooks.com. I say loosely because, as I’ve admitted before, I am nearly incapable of reading all the directions, and my husband is nearly incapable of following a recipe to the letter. Fortunately his results are such that this is a good quality. :-)

Homemade pasta is no small undertaking, so I’m not recommending it as an easy approach to anything, but it is a glorious undertaking for those who like to cook, and for those who think they love pasta, but have never had homemade. Our experience, however, got me to thinking about a technique that we’ve used with our kids, and honestly with ourselves, when it comes to improving the health of our plates – a favorite dish with revision, a step outside of the comfort zone, but with the familiar joy of a favorite flavor. Our family loves pasta, so our children had absolutely no objection to trying Daddy’s pasta with several cups of spinach ground into it. Would they eat pasta with spinach on it? No. Do they eat cooked spinach side-dishes? No. Will they eat spinach salad? No.  I think you get the point. Their love of the pasta overruled their disdain for spinach and they happily jammed it into their mouths with glee; they didn’t even realize they were outside of their comfort zones! How wonderful!

How might this apply if you don’t make your own pasta?  The best pasta revision that I have ever made is to substitute whole wheat noodles for semolina when cooking boxed pasta.  I did this at the behest of my beloved Big Sis who suggested (in response to some questions that I asked about eating better and dropping a few pounds) that since we LOVE (and eat a lot of) pasta, this one switch could add up to a big difference for us.  If you’ve not made this switch, you may not know WHY it could really add up….  I’ll show you.

I have on my lap two packages of dried pasta.  One is 100% whole wheat chicciole (giant puffy elbows), the other is 100% semolina ziti (purchased for necklace production last summer).  Let’s compare the nutrition low-down.  Nutritional info is based on a 2 oz serving in both cases.

100% Whole Wheat                                                100% Semolina

Calories: 180                                                                  Calories: 210

Total Fat: 1.5g                                                                Total Fat: 1g

Total Carbohydrate: 35g                                             Total Carbohydrate: 42g

Dietary Fiber: 6g                                                           Dietary Fiber: 2g

Sugars: 1g                                                                        Sugars: 3g

Protein: 7g                                                                      Protein: 7g

Nutritionist Joy Bauer explains the benefits of whole wheat pasta: “A 100 percent whole-grain pasta includes all three layers of the wheat kernel: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Because nothing is removed during processing, whole-grain pastas contain more natural fiber and micronutrients than their white, refined cousins. And thanks to the extra fiber, whole-grain pastas tend to be more filling than traditional white pasta. What’s more, regularly choosing whole-grains over the refined type is associated with numerous health benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. ” As you can see the whole wheat pasta also contains less sugar.  The difference in fiber, sugar, and micronutrients is what Big Sis was thinking of when she said one change could add up to big benefits.  BIG BABY STEP MOMENT HERE, FRIENDS.  If you still eat semolina pasta, give whole wheat a try.  If you are skeptical, start with a blended pasta.  These have more whole grains than straight semolina, but less than 100% whole grain pasta.  Take the pasta dish your family enjoys the most, and make a relatively small change that can add up to big benefits.

Already eat whole grain pasta?  And you or your crew are pasta fanatics?  Maybe you can take advantage of that pasta love to introduce a whole grain.  What would happen if you used bulghur with your pasta?  How about quinoa primavera?  How about substituting a vegetable for those noodles?  Another recent twist of ours was built around cauliflower which, ironically, my picky eater loves and my omnivore is reluctant to consume.

Whole Wheat Bowties With Roasted Cauliflower inspired by Average Betty’s Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 batch roasted cauliflower, as described above
  • 1 pound whole wheat bowties
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs capers
  • 1/3 c chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan for garnish

As soon as cauliflower goes in the oven, set water on to boil for bowties.  Assemble all other ingredients and place in large bowl.  When cauliflower and bowties are done cooking.  Add to bowl.  Toss.  Yes, that’s it.  And yes, he ate the cauliflower.  Pasta Revision Method successful!  Delish!

Favorites with a twist give us a great opportunity to stretch ourselves with optimism, explore the edges of the comfort zone without losing all that is familiar, ensuring a little joy, the same familiar joy I feel when it’s time to change from our tap shoes into our ballet slippers.

Favorite Chef Gush


Once again I am reminded that good food is just a few steps away, in the pages of my Deborah Madison bible, I mean cookbook.  A fabulous friend introduced me to this book and my kitchen has not been the same since.  Just to be clear, I am not a vegetarian, at least not at the moment; however, for the past few years my family and I have been pursuing a diet that includes less meat and highlights as many vegetables as possible.  Madison’s book title is absolutely spot on.  The dishes she includes can be eaten as an entree, or a side dish and are all based on the principle that real food tastes good and that real food combined in just the right way is transcendent.

Our recent Deborah Madison experience was her Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes.  Know what’s in it?  Mostly chickpeas, potatoes and tomatoes, along with a few other items for flavor like onion, garlic, carrots, herbs and seasonings.  It is exactly the kind of dish that I love to find.  The ingredients list doesn’t take up the whole page, is markedly lacking in exotics, and the procedure is 5 sentences long; the results are spectacular.  Because I’ve made this dish, I have children who eat chickpeas and enjoy it.  The first time I made it, my husband and I enjoyed it and my children passed, instead eating the rice and yogurt I served alongside the dish.  The second time, my son joined us; my daughter stayed in the resistor’s camp (this is actually where she lives most of the time, occasionally emerging to visit the rest of us).  This time (what’s that about the third time being the charm?), everyone played.  It still wasn’t her favorite, but she REALLY loved the chickpeas and the rest of us loved the whole thing, this time served with quinoa.  Deborah Madison knows what REAL food is all about.  Essential ingredients in combinations that entice the senses and tickle the taste buds rather than drowning them.   The more I set my palate free from factory food and chemical habituation, the more I am able to appreciate the simple and spectacular on my plate.  My body already thanks me; and now, having been at it a while, my children do too.  Life in the kitchen is grand.

Small Victories

It was NOT our best day.  Several home repair dilemmas have emerged simultaneously leaving us with limited and inconvenient bathing options.  Sunrise is creeping forward and my darling daughter believes in making the most of daylight.  Mommy and Daddy are not so quick to adjust their schedules and are both engrossed in good bedtime books, so we began our day of interrupted repairs with inadequate sleep.  My little sweetie also decided that today was one of THOSE days.  One of those days where she really is not interested in eating, or at least where she really is not interested in eating anything I provide.  I try not to get sucked into drama about it, but she’s not very pleasant to be around when she doesn’t eat… so you see the problem.  And a sleepy Mommy is probably not as clever in thinking of ways to deal with the situation.  So we finally arrived at dinner and quite honestly I was completely beat.  Done.  Finito.  Needless to say my extensive and totally awesome homemade dinner (homemade whole wheat tortillas and veggie chili) was not her favorite.  We struggled through without much drama, mostly because I was too tired to engage.  But wait, there is a good part to the story.  As we neared the end of dinner, I remembered that I bought some beautiful strawberries yesterday.  I also remembered that our fridge LOVES to freeze strawberries, so they shouldn’t wait.  I rinsed and destemmed them, brought a simple bowlful to the table.    I put them down and my wonderful daughter said, “Oh Mommy!  Is that dessert?”  And she meant it.  She was happy because we had a big luscious bowl of fresh strawberries with no cool whip, sprinkles, fruity goo, or high fructose corn syrup slop anywhere in sight.  She and her brother dug in and made great glorious real food-loving sounds.  Small victories in a bowl of strawberries.