Vegetable Sneak

Oliver and Hazel are usually pretty good about eating vegetables. But as a typical mom, I worry about it. And I worry that they don’t get a lot of variety in their veggies (they usually eat carrots, peas, green beans, and corn that come frozen, because Oliver will only eat cold food). Oh, yeah-they also eat English cucumber, because that is awesome.

So, I get sneaky. Since, like most kids, they eat an unreasonable amount of macaroni and cheese, and some other yellow/orange meals (gnocchi, for example), I started surreptitiously adding vegetables.

How do you add cauliflower or butternut squash to mac & cheese, you ask? Well, let me tell you, so you can trick your kids too!

I steam vegetables of similar color. (So I pair yellow squash with cauliflower, and I do butternut squash and carrots.). Then I purée them and scoop them into ice cube trays. I freeze them, and then I add the cubes to dishes when I am cooking. It has the added benefit of cooling hot food down quickly, which is convenient for me since my kids will only eat cold food.

And I get to smirk with glee when they gobble up macaroni and cheese with cauliflower and squash and never notice the difference.

Chilly Anyone?

Ahhh, I’m so punny. No, really. Because jokes about cold are always funny when you live in Chicago, I had to go with this title.

Anyway, I hate chili. I have always hated chili. I don’t like kidney beans, I don’t like spicy foods, I don’t like chili powder, I don’t like the texture, the taste, the anything.

However, last week when my in-laws were visiting, my father-in-law wanted to cook us his chili. And they’re my in-laws. So I couldn’t very well say no, especially since I have such a terrible reputation for being ridiculously picky about food. (For the record, I’m not picky about food, and I will always try a bite, but I’m not going to eat a ton of food I don’t like, and if I have a say, I like to be the one cooking (so I can avoid things like chili) or helping to decide what to make.) So, I made rice on the side and determined to eat a small helping and fill up on rice and never, ever complain.

Here’s the thing though–it was really good! He used pinto beans instead of kidney beans, and didn’t use chili powder at all. What a difference! I guess one might say that those changes make the dish not chili at all… but who cares?! I didn’t have to lie when I said that I enjoyed it!

It also meant that when I came across a chili recipe in a magazine (Real Simple), I actually looked at it. And then I bought the ingredients. And then I cooked it. And it was delicious! I liked changing the ground beef to ground turkey in the recipe. The turkey adds extra flavor while providing a similar texture. There was a generous amount of cumin in the dish, but not so much that it overpowered it. And while I still omitted the chili powder, I did substitute some chipotle hot sauce from Kullervo’s Christmas hot sauce gift set. And, like my father-in-law, I also replaced the kidney beans. In this case, I used a can of pinto beans and a can of navy beans (both drained and rinsed well, of course, so that dinner didn’t taste like a can).

I served the chili with rice and with a French loaf, and basked in the praise as Kullervo raved all night about how delicious dinner was. All in all, culinary success!

My New Diet Plan

I should specify before I write this that I am not actually on a diet or trying to lose weight.

As I’ve been spending so much time at work, sleeping so little, and surviving the days through the liberal use of coffee, Diet Coke, and chocolate covered espresso beans.

I noticed on Inauguration Day that I was jumping around like four kids in a Bounce House, and realized that the caffeine might actually be making me jittery.

So, I’ve started telling people that my new diet plan is to drink so much coffee that I get a full cardio workout through fidgeting all day.

Wednesday Lunch

Mexican.  Yet another cuisine that I don’t love (or even really like).  Granted, I’m kind of a picky eater.  But then, I can’t be the only person who doesn’t like these styles of food, right?  The vegetarian offering is Tex-Mex vegetable spring rolls.  Isn’t that more of a snack than a meal?

Monday, Tuesday… lunch?

I’m at a week long training seminar in Atlanta.  The conference center we’re staying at has themed lunches, which is great in theory, but sucks for me in practice.

Monday was Indian day.  Tampoori chicken.  The vegetable was an oily peas and carrots that had some odd spice on them.  There is a salad bar, but it appears to have no light dressings, and only very generic salad bar stuff–romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, egg, etc. 

Today, Tuesday, was Chinese day.  Teriyaki chicken.  Asian stir fry vegetables.  Etcetera. 

Now, I’m not a vegetarian, but I generally prefer to avoid meat.  I just don’t like it that much.  But when my only vegetarian options are french fries (again), pizza (again), and the salad bar… I’m getting bored.  And for me, who’s eaten the same kind of cereal almost every day for the last 7 years or so, that’s saying something.  I just don’t feel healthy.  And I have to sit through hours and hours of classes every day with nothing but this crap in my stomach. 

Spinach salad, anyone?  Maybe something with beans?  Lentils?  Something without exotic spices?  Let’s see if it gets any better as the week goes on…

More Mockery

Lest you think I only mock other people, considering myself superior to others, I will share some of my recent kitchen foibles.  Mostly because I think that my own stupidity was funny. 

Friday night, Conner and I had our good friend W over to hang out.  I decided to surprise Conner by making a bisque, and bought all of the ingredients ahead of time (like, Wednesday or Thursday–for once I was on the ball!).  It was to be a corn and red pepper bisque, and sure to be delicious. 

Friday came and I was scurrying around the apartment like a madwoman, having procrastinated tidying up to the last minute (after Oliver’s nap).  I had to start the bisque, clean the kids’ toys, sweep, do some dishes… But I did it.  The toys were put away (stuffed into Oliver’s room where nobody would see them), the clean laundry was hidden (in Conner’s closet–no time to fold the clothes).  The dirty laundry was hidden (in my closet, so we didn’t confuse the baskets).  The dishes were cleaned (I didn’t cut corners there). 

I sat Oliver down to eat his dinner, and began to prepare the ingredients for the soup.  It was then–and only then–that I realized that in our NYC apartment, I only have one pot.  And it’s a 2.5 or 3 quart pot.  Certainly not big enough to make soup in.  After about 10 minutes of panicking and trying to figure out what else I could make that would dazzle W (she’s really fabulous and worth dazzling), I realized that I could halve the recipe.  Phew!  Disaster averted.

Then it crossed my mind that we only have two real bowls.  Our ‘fully stocked’ kitchen did not come with bowls, and when we first moved here we only bought one for each of us.  After all, we have plenty of bowls at home.  This was a problem.  I considered serving dinner straight out of the pot and pretending that it was some hipster way of eating, but I rejected that as being a bit too weird to be believable.  I considered having Conner stop and buy a bowl on his way home from work, but he was already running late. 

I settled on serving my soup into what can only be considered a deep plate.  Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of the spicy and the soup contained more than a little cayenne pepper, I wasn’t going to be eating a lot anyway. 

So, disaster averted.  Fun was had by all on Friday night.  But I’ve learned my lesson: don’t just read recipes ahead of time… think about what you’ll need to cook the food in the recipe, and what you’ll need to serve it.