picky eaters

Quick non-pasta

What to serve when you’re pasta-weary and you need dinner in a hurry? 5 ingredient turkey chili for them, and a hearty salad—with almonds, goat cheese and roasted sweet potatoes—for me.

The chili went over well with Rose because we served it “free-style,” meaning, do-it-yourself toppings. It continues to amaze me that letting her add her own toppings turns a meal she’d ordinarily complain about, into a meal she’ll get excited about.TurkeyChili_IMG_0631

Salmon baked in parchment

SalmonBakedinParchment_IMG_0389I was placing my Fresh Direct order when Rose sauntered over and asked me to order salmon. It was kind of a funny request coming from her, so I assumed she was feeling fatty-acid depleted and ordered some up.

This salmon baked in parchment recipe is a favorite. I happened to have some leeks and white wine in the fridge so it was the perfect choice. When I don’t have leeks and wine, but I have lemons and basil, this other salmon baked in parchment recipe is the one I make. They’re both good, quick and easy.


Polenta lasagna and other revelations

PolentaLasagna_IMG_0218Our friend Gail brought us some spinach, sausage and polenta lasagna that her husband had made a little too much of. It’s one of the wonderful things about living in our neighborhood, you always bump into someone you know on the street. Sometimes you have a spontaneous play date, or you’ll remember you have some outgrown kid clothes for them or they for you, and sometimes they offer to bring you dinner!

Polenta lasagna, what a clever idea. Gail is gluten-free, so the polenta takes the place of pasta in the dish. It was a revelation to me that corn is not a gluten food.

I found the lasagna utterly delicious (even though I only ate the non-sausage parts) but Rose was not a fan. We made sure she tried each part of it twice. “Come on, you love sausage!” “Okay, then try the polenta part.” “The cheese?”

Eventually we had to accept that this delicious dish was just not for her, and sent her off to the kitchen to find something to eat.

“Is Pirate Booty a good dinner?” “How about bread and butter? Is bread and butter a good dinner?” 

She finally settled on peanut butter and jelly. We told her she had to make her own sandwich, which she’s never done before. I know she’s probably the only non-allergic 6 year old in the world who’s never made her own pb&j. There are certain things that fall through the cracks when you have an only child, and don’t really need them to be all that independent.

Watching her make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Dutifully and on tip-toes, she cut the crusts off the bread in little half-inch increments. She “washed” the knife between the peanut butter and the jelly. She tried her very best to make the sandwich symmetrical. She left the loaf of bread on the floor when she was done.

Here comes independence.


In which I get flack for serving “too much soup and vegetarian food”

Potato&Leek_Soup_Vegetarian_IMG_0190Here’s how things went tonight, when I served potato and leek soup:

Me: Then you can have bread and butter, and zucchini. I think the soup is really good. Shane, what do you think?
Shane: The soup is really good.

(1o minutes elapse during which Shane doesn’t appear to be eating his soup, at all)

Me: Shane, do you really like the soup or were you just saying that.
Shane: The soup is good, it’s just that soup isn’t really my cup of tea.
Me: I know, but I thought you might like it because it’s potato based.
Shane: Because I’m Irish? That’s like going to Ireland and having someone assume you like big hamburgers.
Me: Actually, I thought you might like it because you like potatoes.
Shane: I like sausage soup… and meat soup.
Me: “Meat soup?” Seriously?
Rose: Yeah, mom! Why you’re making so much soup… and vegetarian food lately?

The above conversation might not sound like much of an endorsement, but I assure you this soup is quite tasty and really hits the spot on a cold, cold night. Particularly if you don’t mind soup, or “vegetarian food” for dinner.

• Vegetarian Potato & Leek Soup •

5 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, stringy roots, tippy tops, and tough outer parts trimmed off
2 large potatoes (about 1.5lbs), peeled
4 cups water and 1 tablespoon Vegetable Better Than Bouillon (or 4 cups vegetable broth)
1 parmesan rind
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the leeks, halve lengthwise and chop into 1/2″ pieces. Put leeks into a salad spinner and wash thoroughly, leeks can be pretty dirty. Make sure to separate the pieces so that all the dirt gets out. Spin to remove excess water.

Melt butter in a medium to large saucepan or dutch oven. Add leeks and cook until soft. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into inch-ish sized chunks. You don’t need to be precise, larger chunks will just take longer to cook.

Add potatoes to leeks and cook for a minute or two. Add water and Better Than Bouillon (or broth) and parmesan rind. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are very soft.

Remove parmesan rind and blend soup (in the pot) with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread and butter.

Bacon wrapped chicken

Bacon_Wrapped_Chicken_IMG_0054According to my extremely fickle 6 year old, good old Parmesan Chicken Goujons are not so good anymore. She does this from time to time, rejects something that was once her favorite. Forsaking the poor dish, sometimes for years, sometimes indefinitely.

If you ask Shane, he’ll tell you that Parmesan Chicken Goujons are just as delicious as always.

This turn of events, sent me in search of a new easy-to-prep-ahead-and-also-quick-cooking chicken dish, for those weeknights when Rose doesn’t get home until after 8:00.

Good old Martha Stewart had the answer, bacon wrapped chicken cutlets that cook quickly in the broiler on the same baking sheet as the sweet potatoes. The recipe is in this month’s Martha Stewart Living magazine, on one of those 4 perforated cards she so kindly provides. I’ll type it up for you when I make it again.

Martha’s recipe calls for a watercress salad. I made a funny little endive and radicchio salad with capers and dijon instead. It was lovely on top of the sweet potatoes.


Sea scallop risotto

SeaScallopRisotto_IMG_9291We had the most delicious sea scallop risotto tonight. It was a simplified version of a recipe from Biba Caggiano’s Trattoria Cooking. Shane and I both thought it was fantastic.

Rose was not a fan. She tried it and said “I don’t like risotto and I don’t like scallops,” with a perfect Italian accent on the “risotto” and a perfect New England accent on the “scallops.”

Shane and I had a good chuckle, and then reminded her that she knows where the fridge is. She had cheddar cheese and salad.

This is a 45 minute dish, an hour if you’re multi-tasking and/or also making a salad.

• Sea Scallop Risotto •
modified from Biba Caggiano’s Trattoria Cooking

For the Risotto
6 cups water mixed with 2 tablespoons Vegetable Better Than Bouillon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 small onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the Scallops
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 lb. sea scallops, rinsed and chopped into roughly 1/2″ pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt to taste

Begin the risotto. Combine water and bouillon in a pot, and bring to a boil, then lower heat to keep it at a slow simmer. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven. When the butter foams, add the onion and sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well with the butter and onion, cook for one minute. Add 1 cup of wine and cook until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Ladle enough broth into the saucepan to just cover the rice, stir and cook over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the rice until the broth is mostly absorbed, then add more broth, a little at a time, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, prepare the scallops. Melt the butter and olive oil over high heat. Add the scallops and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and then add the 1/2 cup of wine. Simmer until the sauce is reduced to about half and the scallops are cooked through. Season with salt and remove from heat.

The risotto is finished once all of the broth has been incorporated gradually, and the rice is al dente and has a creamy consistency. At this point, add the scallops with their pan juices, the parsley, and the remaining tablespoon of butter, and cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Iceberg wedges with blue cheese & pork

Wedges&Pork_IMG_9284Have any of you parents found the age 5½ to be particularly challenging? For us it’s been, in some ways, one of the all-time hardest ages to deal with, and in other ways, the easiest. Regardless, in the past 6 months, I’ve often found myself seriously doubting whether I’m really qualified to be a parent.

And then our extremely challenging, almost-6-year-old, former picky eater, goes and asks for Iceberg Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing for dinner. We must be doing something right. Right?

With our wedges, we (meaning, they) had hot dogs and smoked pork chops from the Empire Market. I couldn’t think of what to serve with Iceberg Wedges besides meat, so I just had the salad. (I know, bad pregnant mom.)


Poached fish & an asparagus recipe medley

PoachedFish_Asparagus_IMG_7203Tonight’s fish recipe, Oven-poached Pacfic Sole with Lemon Caper Sauce is from the New York Times. My dad will be so proud, he’s an avid NYT recipe-clipper. I used flounder instead of sole, because we have a big bag of frozen flounder in our freezer.

We got the big bag of flounder filets at Costco, and I don’t recommend them. We will eat them all, because I hate to waste food, particularly food that was once an animal, but they’re just not that good. They taste fishy in a way that fresh, good-quality fish never does.

To mask the inferior flavor of the fish, a recipe like tonight’s, with strong flavors—garlic, lemon, capers—works really well. We were out of white wine because I drank it, so I used broth instead. The broth worked well but I bet wine works even better.

I couldn’t decide on an asparagus* recipe. I considered Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, but it has pancetta in it, and I am wary of pine nuts because of pine mouth. I was tempted by Nobu’s Fried Asparagus with Miso Sauce because I’m a sucker for anything with miso in it, but I wasn’t in the mood for deep-frying.

In the end, I made Absurdly Addictive Asparagus but left out the pancetta, added extra butter and half a teaspoon of miso paste, used the leek because both recipes called for leek, left out the garlic and orange zest and added extra lemon zest. It was really, really good.

For Shane, we had new potatoes with butter, salt & pepper. He ate them all.

*If you have a young person at home who’s a ‘picky-eater,’ or is ‘unenthusiastic’ about veggies, use this trick. To get Rose to try asparagus I told her about the interesting after-effects (it makes your pee smell funny). She immediately wanted to try it. I used the same concept to get her to try beets. She now likes both.


Bacon-wrapped chicken

BaconChicken_IMG_6406It used to be that the first thing Rose said upon sitting down at dinner was “Aaaaaaaaaah! I don’t like this dinner! I DONT LIKE THIS DINNER!” or “Aaaaaaaaaah! What else is there? WHAT ELSE IS THERE?” or “Aaaaaaaaaah! There’s no meat on this table! I ONLY LIKE MEAT ON THE TABLE!”

Tonight she sat down and said “Oh, corn! I love corn! Raise your hand if you love corn!” And I realized that it’s been a really long time since we began a meal with the ear-piercing “Aaaaaaaaaah!…” How wonderful is that?

But you probably want to hear about the bacon-wrapped chicken. I used this recipe from Gramercy Tavern. I knew my family wouldn’t go for the chicken livers. I made it exactly per the recipe, but left out the livers and used vegetable Better Than Bouillon in the sauce, instead of stock.

The family loved it and my vegetarian self didn’t feel too bad about all that hands-on work, because the chicken was Murray’s, which is certified humane. The bacon was homemade, from the Empire Market. (Yes, we’re still milking that stash).

We had Quinoa with mushrooms, from this recipe but with a big handful of fresh parsley, instead of sage. The salad was boston lettuce with roasted corn kernels. Raise your hand if you love corn!