Monday, April 27, 2009

Simple Spicy Curry (with help from Maya)

Today was non-stop. I team taught a Stroller Strides class…played at the park with my little one…zipped through Whole Foods (which I love, but that reminds how much less expensive Trader Joe’s is) with minutes to spare before picking up my bigger one…took them both for an impromptu picnic (brown rice sushi from Whole Foods and one of the Whole Food’s bakery’s decadent “granola bars”) at the New Canaan Nature Center…home in time to nap the little one and squeeze in half a workout myself…before taking the big one to his music class and then treating the kids to a (dinner busting) gelato at Gelatissimo. Totally worth it. I tried to give them a goat cheese polenta terrine thingy I picked up at Whole Foods (my little one boisterously asked for it and I thought I had a slam-dunk kid’s dinner, but he probably thought it was a cupcake…) anyway, that totally bombed. But in the couple minutes they were sitting still, turning up their noses, I whipped up this curry for our dinner. Most of the time I try to make something I can also give my kids. Maybe it's subconsciously to broaden their palate, but it's also just to keep things more sane around here. But they won’t touch anything spicy, so this is all for us.

Simple Spicy/Sweet Chicken Curry

1 container Maya Kaimal Vindaloo Sauce
3 zucchini, chopped
3 breasts of all natural chicken, chopped into 1” pieces
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Fuji apple, chopped

Combine everything in a saucepan; bring to a boil then lower heat to low. Pop a cover on it, so the chicken cooks through and the zucchini and apple become tender. I had to run an errand, so I actually turned the heat off after it simmered 10 minutes or so, left the lid on, and when I came home dinner was ready (and the house smells amazing).

As Kaimal says on her
website, “I make my products with the finest ingredients and traditional techniques to reflect my favorite flavors of India. I take no shortcuts—so you can.” As long as I recognize all the ingredients in a sauce such as this, I am all for shortcuts.

10 minutes after arriving at Tyler Place last year...

Tyler Place

It must be the 3 consecutive days of sun that has me dreaming of Tyler Place…that, or the fact that this family camp has been a recurring topic of conversation amongst friends this past week. (It couldn't be the mild panic I am feeling that school is out shortly...) It seems that many of us want to plan the perfect family getaway, but we are also in dire need of a break. Tyler Place has it figured out. I cannot wait…

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simple Roasted Veggies

I am all about economies of scale when it comes to cooking. If I am making any of my meatball recipes, or something like chicken enchiladas, I make a batch for the freezer. When I whip up a frittata or protein pancakes I make extra for later in the week, so we can simply heat up breakfast in a matter of minutes...but still enjoy a healthy homemade meal. So last night, when I needed to make a veggie side for dinner, I decided to also roast several different veggies to cut down on prep time later this week.

All veggies were tossed in a little olive oil and kosher salt then roasted in a 375 degree oven for between 20-45 minutes, depending upon the type of veggie. The idea is to cook them until they’re crisp tender. You don’t want to overcook them (to the point when they’re mushy) or they’ll be nasty the night you make them…and even worse a couple days later! Here’s what I roasted, and what I intend to make with each one to give you some ideas:

Leeks (tender spring ones from my CSA delivery) – were eaten last night as a side with our halibut
New Potatoes – the kids had these as a side with their chicken apple sausage dinner last night then I chopped them up in a hash I made for our breakfast this morning; we still have a couple leftover and I’ll crisp them up in a fry pan tonight with the kid’s dinner
Zucchini – always a good addition to a frittata; will be tossed in salads; will toss with a little more olive oil, some lemon zest and fresh mint and serve as a side with dinner tomorrow
Broccoli - chopped some and added it to my son’s Annie’s Mac & Cheese at lunch today; will make scrambled eggs with broccoli and Feta; if I have any left, I’ll toss in a sherry vinaigrette and add some pine nuts and yellow raisins for a nice sweet-tangy room temp side
Carrots – also appeared in my son’s Mac & Cheese; roasting them brings out their sweetness, so my kids like to snack on these; another idea for a side would be to toss carrots in a tangy vinaigrette like this: 1T olive oil + 1T mustard + 2t lemon juice + 2t honey...whisk and add chopped fresh parsley
Peppers and Onions – were used in today’s hash; will be used in the frittata; perfect in the black bean burritos that are a current favorite with my kids (probably because it’s a meal they can eat while moving…); and will be a side to the fish tacos I am making Friday night

So, I have a fridge full of veggies ready to go…but tonight I don’t have to use any of them as it’s my night to pick up dinner from my Supper Exchange (see posting from March 18 if you want to set up your own). Chicken Curry here I come!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Today, as I struggled to pay attention at a school meeting I was reminded that my life is currently not my own. Not wanting to spend $40-50 on a sitter, I brought my little one along, thinking surely the bag full of Etch-a-sketch, small cars and trucks and the lunchbox we packed full of his choice of snacks would keep him quiet. He wasn’t hungry for the snacks (seeing that it was only 8:30 and he’d just had breakfast), the truck he most wanted to play with made a (loud) whirring sound whenever pulled back, and when he realized bellowing “I VOWCANO! I WOCKET!” in a room filled with attentive moms elicited some giggles (and stink eye) we quickly excused ourselves. This seems to happen to me a lot these days. At first I was really annoyed that I learned nothing about the reading process between K and 1st grade. I was in a resentful mood that perfectly matched today’s foul weather. Then I ran into a friend in town who said she was embracing the fact that nothing was going as she’d planned today and that once she did that, she was much happier. Hmmm, I’d never thought of that tact. Instead I was slowly working myself into a lather because my day was totally off kilter. The meeting was videotaped so working parents could get the information too. My kid is two (quite two). Of course he’d rather be bouncing around at a gym class than a meeting full of moms. When I consider that he’s my job these days, I realize it’s ok for me to borrow one of those meeting DVDs too. Gina was a good reality check. I am going to try to laugh times like these off more. My life may not be my own these days, but it’s a short window when my child is completely dependent on me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Multi-Tasking Meal: Pasta with Red Sauce becomes Papardelle with (Soy) Chorizo Sauce

Today was one of those days when I needed my meal to multi-task…and I only had a short time to prepare dinner before my kids started spiraling downward. It was so cold and rainy here today that I wanted to give my kids a warm, hearty meal. Got home at 5pm, dinner was ready at 5:30 and the kids were bathed, read to and asleep by 7pm. Delicious success.

1 pkg Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) Sprouted Wheat Papardelle
1 jar TJ’s Organic Pasta Sauce
1 pkg TJ’s Soy Chorizo
Freshly shredded Parmesan

After preparing the papardelle according to the directions on the package (boiling it for 7 minutes with a dash of kosher salt), I mixed in a healthy dose of tomato sauce and freshly shredded Parmesan for the kids and served it with a side of finger-friendly strawberries, mango, cucumbers and carrots. (The consistency of the sprouted wheat pasta went unnoticed, in fact, everyone really liked it.) While they started eating (underfoot) I simply sautéed the chorizo until browned, added the remainder of the sauce, and stirred in the papardelle until warmed and nicely blended. Then I sat down and ate with them. This made a simple, but healthy, pasta dinner a little more interesting and zesty… and it’s another meal that holds up well until your husband comes home from work if you also eat in shifts at your house.

The REAL "Protein Pancakes" of my childhood

Thank you to Loren Kaplan, my Rustic Canyon neighborhood pal, who located the original Canyon School Cookbook: Cosmic Cookery for Kids. This cookbook from the 70’s contains the real Protein Pancake recipe I so fondly remember my mom whipping up. I thought I'd done a good job of recreating the recipe through memory and the combination of a bunch of recipes I'd found online, but this makes much more sense with the ratio of cottage cheese to flour. Since the cookbook is likely not an easy find, here’s the recipe, which I have adapted slightly (omitting the sugar/salt and adding in some natural flavor boosters instead):

Cosmic Cookery for Kids' Protein Pancakes

1 lb cottage cheese (1 tub)
6-8 large eggs
1/2 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, gluten-free...your choice)
2 t vanilla
1-2 T cinnamon
lemon zest, optional

Blend everything in the blender until the batter is smooth with a consistency of sour cream. Bake small pancakes on hot non-stick or buttered griddle, turning once. Serve warm. Wonderful topped with Greek yogurt, applesauce or maple syrup. 

Now I know what I am making the kids for supper tonight. Mmmm, I wonder if the cookbook also has my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Toy’s Egg Foo Yung?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Not your grandma’s meatballs: Lamb-Pistachio Meatballs

Not that I have anything against grandmas. In fact, our “Meme and Papa” are visiting now and we’re having a ball. (Hence the reason I haven’t spent much time updating this blog.) But, since the times when our moms taught us to cook, so many interesting ingredients and ethnic cuisines have become mainstream. With that in mind, I am sharing my recipe for Lamb & Pistachio Meatballs. Remember: meatballs are hard to mess up! These ones are amazing, and so easy. As an added bonus, they reheat well and can be frozen. A perfect make ahead meal…and these meatballs are special enough that you could serve them at a dinner party. (We ate them before I remember to take a photo, so I had to poach an image off the Food & Wine site...)

Kofte with Pistachios
1 cup bag raw (or roasted, unsalted) pistachios (Trader Joe's sells them shelled...)
1 lb ground lamb (which can be difficult to find, so call ahead and order this from your market’s butcher)
1 lb all natural ground beef
2 or 3 yellow onions (depending upon the size of the onion), diced small
1 bunch fresh mint, leaves rough chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves rough chopped
hearty dash of cumin
hearty dash on cinnamon
hearty dash of kosher salt
olive oil in which to sauté the meatballs

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and mix with your hands. (Remove your wedding ring, or it will get nasty.) Drizzle olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Roll meatballs in oil to lightly cover. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through, turning halfway so they evenly brown. Done! How easy was that? Serve with Yogurt Sauce.

These meatballs free beautifully, so make a big batch and freeze some for later!

Herbed Yogurt Sauce
This sauce pairs wonderfully with the meatballs, but can also be a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken or shrimp, or stirred into orzo for a side dish, used as a dip for pita chips, etc. Lots of options for this simple recipe….

16 oz. Greek yogurt
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped (or 2-3 T dried)
1 bunch dill, feathery part roughly chopped (or 2-3 T dried)
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped (or 2-3 T dried)
optional: 1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper + salt to taste

Combine all of the above and let flavors meld in the fridge for at least one hour. Dip will keep for several days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I got to enjoy quite a feast before heading off to CPR class tonight (a requirement for my upcoming Stroller Strides classes, not just for a good time): lamb & pistachio meatballs, the cumin/cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes, and the Israeli cous cous with spinach and Feta. Delish. I gave myself a little pat on the back before trotting off to blow hot air into dummies. I’d intended to post the recipe for the meatballs and yogurt sauce when I got home, but instead am sitting here at midnight watching Noggin with a wheezing toddler in my lap, hoping the medicine works….looking at a sleepless night ahead. Assuming I can keep my eyes open, I promise to post some new recipes tomorrow.

I love hearing that so many of you have had such success (and enjoyed!) recreating these meals. It feels great to have a repertoire of some easy meals that are healthy and interesting, doesn’t it?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I want to look like Tracy

Laugh all you want. Fine, so I'll never be 5 feet tall...I haven't had a tiny little body like that since high school (or was that middle school?!)..and I won't be blond with plump pouty lips without some serious intervention, but a girl can dream, right?

I feel like all I have done the past couple days is cook. On Friday night I made a simple and delicious Bouillabaisse (that I prepped earlier in the day then simple added the seafood last minute) so we could enjoy a relaxing dinner with my parents who are visiting. On Saturday I whipped up copious amounts of Protein Pancakes (see my March 21 posting for that recipe) so I’d also have a healthy yummy breakfast before school this week. I also made a big batch of my Mango Chicken Quesadillas (multi-tasking the kid and adult versions, see posting on March 24 for that recipe/ideas) because we’re having friends come up for a visit and lunch on Monday (and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am all about preparing things ahead of time so I get to enjoy my company…). Then I took the night off of cooking Saturday and let someone else serve me and clean up. This morning I made a Soy Sausage and Cheese Frittata and fruit salad for Easter brunch. After hunting for eggs with the kids, I whipped up Lamb & Pistachio Meatballs... a Greek Yogurt Dip with Roasted Garlic, Dill, Mint and Parsley... Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cumin, Chile Powder and Cinnamon...and an Israeli Cous Cous side that I made up as I went and it ended up with wilted spinach, dried cranberries, Feta and pine nuts in it. But ironically, when we opened the fridge this afternoon my mom lamented that the (scrumptious) Bouillabaisse was going to go bad if we didn’t eat it today, so we ended up having that for Easter dinner. No one complained that we were having leftovers. In fact, everyone ooh’d and aah’d about how good it was again this evening. So, on a random Monday night we’ll enjoy our Easter Lamb & Pistachio Meatball feast! Nothing like making a Monday special.

But if you’re getting full just reading this litany of foods, then you understand why I also made an investment in Tracy Anderson’s video. Mmm hmm. I ordered the video after asking a friend with a couple month old baby how her tummy was so flat after having her fourth child. I’d heard about the videos, but am always a little skeptical of a DVD workout. You know I love my Stroller Strides classes, and I do treat myself to Go Figure classes here and there (if I can wake up early enough on a weekend morning to rally…or get my husband home early one night/week which rarely seems to come to fruition). But on those days when the day passes me by, the kids are finally put down and I need to rally and do something for me, it’s nice to have an alternative I can pop in. Her cueing isn’t great, but I am still impressed. I mean, I am using my sore fanny as a proxy, and that’s as good as any these days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sweet Dreams

Need I say more about why I am too tired to post the Turkey Chili recipe from today? For those who cannot figure out what on earth this photo captures: this is the "spaceship" (or as he pronounces it: "paceshit!") my son gleefully built during his "nap" today, before he collapsed mid-project-- and it pretty much sums up my day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And a Quick 'Asian' Inspired Dinner Too

I’m all about spring cleaning these days, so I am determined to work through the ingredients I have in my pantry…plus the random assortment I amassed during yesterday’s grocery shopping trip. I don’t have much time to cook dinner during the week. I tend to assemble dinner while I am giving my children a snack, and then pop it in the oven while we play before dinner (or they play and I squeeze in a workout, some emailing, and a phone call if I am lucky). This afternoon, I assembled dinner in less that 30 minutes again and it’s cooling down for the boys. It smells amazing. This time dinner has a little more Asian/SE Asian influence (all ingredients from Trader Joe’s for anyone who would like to try it at home):

Pork tenderloin + TJ’s Peanut Sauce: seared the pork tenderloin in a bit of olive oil, then transferred it to a roasting pan and coated it in peanut sauce; roasted at 375 until it reached an internal temp of 160 degrees. If you wanted to dress it up, you could sprinkle some chopped peanuts and cilantro over the top to make it look pretty...

For one veggie, I tossed a bag of organic baby carrots + a little olive oil (would be great with sesame oil too, but my husband isn’t a fan of sesame) + a drizzle of honey + some grated ginger + kosher salt + pepper and roasted the carrots in the same 375 degree oven until they were crisp tender. If you were using sesame oil, and wanted to be fancy, you could shake some black sesame seeds over the top before roasting them. That would be pretty….

There’s really nothing ‘Asian” about the other veggie side, but everyone likes it and I had all the ingredients on hand: 1 bag organic frozen spinach (thawed) + hearty scoop of organic whipped cream cheese + a splash of half & half + small handful of shredded Parm + lemon zest. Combine all of the above in a saucepan and heat on low until melted/combined.

And pictured above, I combined 1 bag of TJ’s brown rice (from the freezer section, heated according to pkg) + with diced mango + fresh mint + a splash of rice vinegar + kosher salt + pepper.

Have to run because we’re going to sit down to an early dinner. Early dinner + early bath + early bed = relaxing evening for you-know-who.

Quick Mediterranean-Inspired Dinner

Against my better judgment—and totally against my efforts to save money by shopping with a list—yesterday I went to Trader Joe’s hungry and with a 2-year-old who was not in the mood to market. I came out with a heaping cart of really random stuff. The upside, I got to concoct dinner in a loosey goosey manner, trying to put a dent into all of these random ingredients I came home with. It was a hit, and the house smelled amazing….

1 pkg all-natural chicken tenders
1 tub crumbled Feta cheese
1 jar roasted piquillo peppers
½ jar pitted kalamata olives
1 large can organic diced tomatoes
1 tub (fresh) organic cherry tomatoes
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
Zest of 1 lemon
½ pkg fresh mint, I tossed in whole leaves
splash of olive oil
splash of sherry vinegar
dash of freshly ground pepper
(the Feta added enough salt to the dish)

I tossed everything together (which took mere minutes) and roasted it at 375 (in a big ceramic baking dish) until the chicken was cooked, stirring twice to meld flavors. Served it with green beans, which I blanched.

My older son who does not eat meat (“or anything with a mother”) avoided the chicken, so I heated a package of TJ’s multigrain pilaf, stirred in some of TJ's shredded "Quattro Formaggio", then topped the rice with a hearty side of the tomato/olive/Feta mixture, three things he does like. Mmmm.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Simple Sunday Supper: Jambalaya

As part of my older son's “Spring into Service” weekend, I spent a windy, drizzly Saturday morning picking up (unmentionable) trash at Veteran’s Park in Norwalk, the afternoon helping to oversee a volunteer project at The Tiny Miracles Foundation’s office, and capped it off with dinner at Rio where I got serious indigestion from inhaling two margaritas and an order of chicken fajitas in record time because my kids would have rather been home with a sitter… when will I learn that the need for a break is mutual?

The first thing I did today—no wait, first I made French Toast and Southwestern Egg Wraps for breakfast (can you say short order cook?...)-- then I did a big PR submission on behalf of The Tiny Miracles Foundation, (quickly, very quickly) read Monday through Sunday’s New York Times (that were in the kitchen staring at me every time I walked by the growing pile of old news), and took my husband on a tour of the ground wasps that seem to have set up an intricate underground maze in our backyard. Now, I feel I deserve a break. I’m not going to the supermarket, and its way too pretty to spend too much time at the stove today. Thankfully, with a little help from my buddy “Joe”, as in Trader Joe, I was able to quickly whip up Jambalaya. I risk posting this “recipe” because many a friend has received this Jambalaya when they’ve had a baby or were in need of a yummy meal. But, it’s just too easy and delish not to share…

2 packages Trader Joe’s Jambalaya*
1 package Trader Joe’s chicken sausages**, thinly sliced
3 bell peppers (we’ve got 2 red and 1 yellow on hand), ½” dice
1 bag organic frozen peas, prepared according to the pkg

zest of 1-2 lemon(s)

Sauté the chicken sausage and bell peppers in a bit of olive oil. Heat the Trader Joe’s Jambalaya according to package. Combine Jambalaya, sausage, peppers, peas and lemon zest. Done! Oh, and it pairs nicely with TJ’s cornbread (over by the muffin mixes) and a salad.

* TJ’s Jambalaya is found next to the pasta and all of the prepared Indian sides in the Darien store. It comes in a 10 oz. pouch.
**I recommend TJ's Chicken Apple sausages for those who prefer a mild Jambalaya or Chicken Andouille Sausages for those who want a little kick.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Classy Kid and Cookies

I had pipedreams of going to a Parent’s Association meeting at my son’s school all by myself today…enjoying a (hot) cup of coffee with fellow moms….actually hearing what the speaker had to say…and capping my morning off with an organic latte and a treat at Le Pain Quotodien. Instead, I had our little one in tow. The novelty of my purse full of pens, play-doh and little cars and trucks quickly wore off, as did drinking half & half through a skinny straw. At the ripe age of two, my son decided it was time to go…and right then. So he did his attention grabbing “Dammit!” yell a couple times over and we quickly exited the meeting.

Score? Toddler: 1, Mommy: 0.
With our playgroup cancelled and the weather totally foul, I was in no mood to play trains or Candyland…again. So, I suggested we make some cookies. After all, what is a pity party without cake or cookies? If you’re looking for a rainy weekend activity, I can confirm (10 cookies later) that these are worth whipping up.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 
(makes about 4 dozen cookies)

  • 1 1/2 sticks organic butter, softened (or done so in the microwave for 20 seconds)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour (whole wheat, all-purpose, or gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon ginger 
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional, but the chocolate is not, in my book) 
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (optional, but the chocolate is not, in my book)
  • copious amounts of semi-sweet chocolate chunks (at least a bag, come on these are cookies…)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (for easier clean-up).
Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla; mix.
Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger; mix.
Add oats, chocolate chips and cranberries (or any other ingredients you’re adding); mix.
Form drop cookies and bake 10-12 minutes, or until a nice golden brown.