Monday, February 15, 2016

Cooking While Parenting

It's been a loooong time...years, in fact, since I've last posted. I'd love to think you've all been waiting with bated breath for a new post, but I doubt that's true. And perhaps this post will only appeal to some of you, but this is my new reality, so I have to write about it: cooking for a toddler. Yes, more difficult, readers, than splitting the atom, I assure you. Where once I imagined my son was a gourmand, I've come to realize that if he could, he'd happily live off pizza and Honey Bunnies. Wait, can he live off pizza and Honey Bunnies?? Because there are days where that seems to be all he'll eat. And even though I know he won't starve or die from malnutrition, it still kills me that he won't eat a vegetable. It kills me that he spits out the "green stuff" (nothing worse than basil!) in the sauce or that he can find the tiniest piece of onion in anything and somehow manage to extricate it from the food it's in, like tying a cherry stem in a knot in your mouth, and deposit it on the floor. It simply kills me.

So what's a parent to do? We've all read that it can sometimes take 10 tries with a new food for a toddler to accept it, but I just don't have the stamina for that. And we all have friends whose kids will eat anything, putting ours to shame (How does this happen?! And is it every kid but mine?). And then there are all those good-for-you foods that come in cute shapes meant to trick kids into liking them, or at least tolerating them, and I've tried those too. They tend to work for about 45 seconds in our house and then it's over. So short of bribing, cajoling, screaming, crying and eating everything myself, I've resorted to ice pops. Yes, ice pops -- after breakfast, after lunch and dinner, in between and sometimes before bed. But before you stop reading, rest assured that these are the good-for-you sort of pops, and our one rule is that they're never a meal themselves, but they are an anytime treat.

Zoku Fish Pop Molds
A friend in passing mentioned that she makes pops for her son and uses the Zoku pop molds. They're cute and easy to use, they come in a few different designs and can be found on Amazon, and it's one gimmick that actually worked for us and has continued to work (key). My son thinks he's getting one over on us because we always say yes to a pop (but only after he's finished his meal), and I feel great knowing that there's nothing rotten in them. Here's how I do it and a few tried and true varieties:

Frozen fruit works great in these -- I usually buy frozen berries, nuke them until they're slightly soft (about a minute or so) and puree them in the food processor.

I always add a banana for sweetness. I let them practically rot on the kitchen counter and then freeze them. Nuke them for 30 seconds or so, peel and puree.

100% juice (blueberry, carrot or whatever other sort works for your child) can be added to enhance the flavor or stretch out the puree.

A squeeze of lemon juice adds a nice tartness to the pops.

VEGETABLES! I've added butternut squash, zucchini and carrots with great success. Again, cook in microwave until soft and puree. I keep batches of pureed vegetables in the freezer to add to the pops (and sauce, as it turns out, which works well), which saves a lot of time. You would be hard pressed to know there are vegetables in these pops, and even a toddler wouldn't know. My son once ate so many of the carrot pops that his poop was orange the next day. Success!

And here are some of his favorite varieties:

Banana, pineapple, carrot
Blueberry, strawberry, banana, butternut squash
Blueberry, banana, carrot
Banana, strawberry, zucchini
Mango, banana, butternut squash

A word on sugar. I rarely, if ever, add sugar to these pops. The banana takes care of the sweetness, but if you must, try coconut sugar, which is a healthier option than refined, white sugar.

Other healthy additions include almond or peanut butter, Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree and ground nuts.

The cute shapes are perfect for toddlers
So this might not be revolutionary, and I might not be the next James Beard recipient, but this has given me a lot of relief in the toddler food department.

Have good ideas for getting kids to eat their vegetables? Please share!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A summery tomato tart

I never was a huge fan of quiche, but give me a good, savory tart and I'm in heaven. I'm currently swamped (happily) with tomatoes from the CSA, so I tried this recipe, curtesy of the very cool

Some notes on the preparation: I did pre-bake the crust to ensure that it wasn't soggy or chewy. Here's how to do it:

  • If you are using a pie dish, lightly oil the dish
  • Spread dough out and cover with parchment paper or foil
  • Weigh down the crust -- so it doesn't rise -- with dry beans or an oven-safe pot
  • Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Remove weight and parchment paper and bake for another 10 minutes

The other thing I did to prevent a soggy crust was to blot the cut tomatoes on a paper towel to remove the excess water.

Lastly, I sauteed about 1/4 of an onion and topped the mozzarella with the mixture; it added a nice, earthy flavor to the tart.

This was easy and quite tasty. The dough was flavorful and buttery and the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, which is exactly how you want your tomatoes to be. This is a perfect summer dish!

    Fresh Tomato Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust
    Serves 4 to 6
                      8 OUNCES SLICED MOZZARELLA
                      SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

  • Prepare the dough, and press it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of the tart shell with mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in a ring around the edge of the tart and a second ring in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before slicing. (The tart may be covered and kept at room temperature for 6 hours.)

    Basil-Garlic Tart Dough
                      1/3 CUP FRESH BASIL LEAVES
                      1 MEDIUM GARLIC CLOVE
                      1 1/4 CUPS UNBLEACHED ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
                      1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
                      4-5 TABLESPOONS ICE WATER

  • Place the basil and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely chopped. Add flour and salt; pulse to combine.
  • Add butter. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  • Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if the mixture forms a ball. If not, add remaining water. Process until dough forms into a ball. Remove dough from processor.
  • Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be placed in a zipper-lock plastic bag and refrigerated for several days or frozen for 1 month. If frozen, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.)

  • Allow the dough to come to a bit cooler than room temperature. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan, and press it into the pan. Trim the dough, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Do you need all the butter?

I'm not a baker, so I wasn't sure of the answer to this. I've always suspected that the more butter one uses the better (or buttery-er) the end product, but I'm not a butter fan. I rarely use it when cooking, though of course baking is different. When I ran across this recipe for blueberry sour cream muffins using only 1 tablespoon of butter, I was skeptical to say the least (so skeptical that I used 2 tablespoons).

When my brother and I were little, we loved the after dinner treats my mother made us. They could be as simple as peanut butter and jelly on crackers or as unexpected as muffins (because who wanted to bake after cooking an entire meal?). She often made blueberry muffins, which we'd eat warm and slathered with butter and honey. That's how I ate these--sans the slathering of butter, but definitely with the honey.

Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins
courtesy of

1 c. sugar
1 tbsp. soft butter (I used 2).
1 egg, beaten
1 c. sour cream
1 c. fresh blueberries
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Mix sugar and butter then add beaten eggs and sour cream. Mix and then add the rest of the ingredients. Add the blueberries last. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (23 was perfect).
If using frozen blueberries, bake 5-10 minutes longer. Yields 12 large or 18 medium muffins.

I guess it was the sour cream that did the trick, because these were moist as can be, and just as good as I remember my mom's being.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool food

This will be a short post, mainly just to give you a recipe that will take about as long to make as it will to read this.

Summer, to me, is all about food, and I love a nice cool salad to go along as a side to my main meal. I just whipped this one up--a great way to use all those vegetables from the CSA.

Cucumber tomato and corn salad

2 vine tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
1 ear of fresh corn, already cooked
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Olive oil (about 3 tablespoons, or more or less if you'd like)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the tomato and cucumber and combine in a bowl. Remove the corn from the ear and break apart with your hands and add to bowl. Tear two leaves of basil and add, along with the garlic, onion, vinegar and as much olive oil as you'd like. Add the salt and pepper and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

This made enough for about two people. Next time I'll double the recipe, for sure.

Buon appetito!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Following the recipe: my summer project

I subscribe to a lot of cooking magazines. I know all about finding the best wines for under $20; I've read all about how to grill even though I live in Manhattan and will likely never own a grill; and I know all the tidbits about the best new chefs under 30. I like to look at all the perfect food pictures and I even look at the recipes. But what do I almost never do? Ironically, I almost never make anything I come across in a cooking magazine (or a cookbook for that matter, and I have plenty of those too). Growing up with a grandmother who made everything from her head, following a recipe somehow smacks of unauthentic cooking to me. I like putting "a little bit" or a "sprinkle" of this or that in my food, although trying to explain that in a recipe isn't easy.

Recently, I decided that one of my cooking experiments this summer would be to follow a recipe. Here's the first one I tried, and it was certainly worth it.

Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa
(from food network magazine)


  • 4 cups diced seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound skinless wild striped bass fillet, tilapia or cod
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced


Make the watermelon salsa: Combine the watermelon, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and jalapeno in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Preheat a grill to high. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with the chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt; drizzle both sides with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the grill with olive oil, then add the fish and grill until marked and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a plate and break into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, toss the lettuce with 2 tablespoons of the juices from the watermelon salsa and a pinch of salt. Warm the tortillas on the grill and fill with the fish, watermelon salsa, avocado and lettuce. Serve with lime wedges.

This is something I would never have made on my own, though it is something I order a lot when out. I was afraid that the watermelon salsa would make it too sweet, but it was just perfect. I used tilapia in this recipe but will try the cod or bass next time. And there will be a next time, but only after I've followed another recipe.

My history geek moment: It is believed that watermelon originated in southern Africa, though its seeds have been found in some 12th century (that's B.C.) burial sites of the pharaohs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer lemonade

Being pregnant is interesting. However, the list of things one can't eat and drink is maddening. Honestly, what did women do 50 years ago? As I try to negotiate a fine balance between being completely paranoid and enjoying my favorite food season,summer, I'm finding alternatives to the things I love to drink (think a dry summer rose) and eat. I trick myself into thinking I'm having a glass of Pinot with this little gem: homemade lemonade with a splash of seltzer, served in a wine glass, of course. This recipe comes from My change is using less sugar, a splash of seltzer and adding a bit of mint to the glass.

1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water
Fresh mint to garnish

 Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves (about 1 minute).

While the sugar is dissolving, squeeze the juice of 6 lemons for 1 cup of juice.

Combine the syrup and lemon juice and refrigerate until cold.

Serve with a splash of seltzer and mint, if you'd like, or slices of lemon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I love eggs. There are times when I find myself at the end of a week only to realize I've eaten some kind of egg dish almost every day. Percolating somewhere inside my brain is the idea of a restaurant where eggs are the star of almost every dish. I think it could work!

Two of my favorite egg dishes are really easy to make: a frittata and an over easy egg on top of some kind of pesto. Here are the recipes:

~Preheat the broiler
~Saute 1 small onion until translucent, about 3-4 minutes, in a 10 inch, oven safe pan
~Add one bunch of whichever green you like. Chard works well, as does spinach. Remove the thickest part of the stems removed, and saute until soft, about 3 minutes
~While your green is cooking, whisk 9 large eggs, adding salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese to them
~When the green is almost done, add the eggs to the pan. Cook until set
~When set, transfer the pan to the broiler and cook until the top is golden, about 3 minutes
~Slice and serve with crusty bread


My other favorite egg dish, and the one I make almost every Saturday morning, is a simple over easy egg atop crusty bread and pesto. I like to make tomato or garlic scape pesto in the summer; in the winter, if I can find a nice bunch of basil that doesn't cost the earth, I'll make a batch of basil pesto, which is wonderful with eggs.

You can find my recipe for basil pesto and salmorejo, a Spanish tomato pesto, here, and garlic scape pesto here.

Egg and garlic scape pesto

The egg really is the perfect food, and so versatile. If you can find them, use organic cage free eggs, which make a big difference in the taste. Buon appetito!