Much as more exercise and eating less should be top of my resolution list, I know that the chances of major change there remain elusive for the time being. So I am focusing on areas where I think I can have an impact and we are off to a promising start.
Part of the reason for the lack of recent posts is that we had resorted heavily to packaged and prepared foods to get us through the last few years. While Trader Joe’s fish nuggets and chicken fried rice, Annie’s mac and cheese, Bell & Evan’s various breaded chicken option have helped us get through many a night with full bellies and not too many battles, we are finally ready for more real food.
We had stumbled upon a few home cooked options during the packaged food option bonanza with the greatest hit being pasta with mild italian sausage, broccoli, and parmesan tossed in chicken broth and the perennial hit of breakfast for dinner with an all fruit smoothie.
My resolve to branch out strengthened with two parallel developments in my daughters’ relationships with food. The first was the adoption of the Wellness in the Schools initiative by the girls’ NYC public school. The program brings healthier menu items and more scratch cooking to the school cafeteria as well as cooking lessons and demonstrations. My first grader, in particular, has loved learning more about food (the second grader has an issue with tomatoes which have factored heavily in both cooking lessons so far) and has embraced the message of home prepared foods being healthier than processed foods. There has been an adjustment period but they have finally adjusted to the healthier version of the cheese and pbj sandwich options. My first grader opted for the lentil chili on Thursday and liked it and they both regularly partake of the salad bar. I actually need to buy some romaine and slicing tomatoes this week!
The second development, as unlikely as it sounds, is that I introduced them to Master Chef Junior and they were quickly hooked. I was hoping that seeing kids around their age being knowledgeable and skilled with a wide range of sophisticated foods might encourage them to be more open-minded and so far, so good!
So what has worked well enough so far to make it into a monthly rotation?
The first success was roasting pork using the Game Day Nachos recipe from the New York Times. I just roasted the pork and skipped the rest. I used half of the pork with some fresh pineapple and a squeeze of lime juice to make soft corn pork tacos. My first grader even asked for them the next day for breakfast. My second grader is more of a pulled pork fan so I prepared the rest of the pork with some barbecue sauce on a bun. She took the leftovers as lunch the next day.
The second success was the chicken soba soup recipe on the side of the Whole Foods Organic Chicken Broth carton but without the soba. I prepared it two ways. The first time, I added an ample handful of udon noodles so it was chicken udon noodles that you could eat with a fork. The second time, I went with a more modest amount of egg noodles for a more traditional chicken noodle soup. The evening that I cooked it, the girls both needed a bedtime snack because the cooking aroma was that mouthwatering.
On the dessert front, I finally got them to try my fruit cobbler. This one was 1 cup blueberries, one cup sliced strawberries, and diced asian pear. I tossed the fruit with a tablespoon of brown sugar. The topping was a combination of one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, one egg and a teaspoon of baking powder combined until crumbly. On top I sprinkled one teaspoon of cinnamon sugar and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Big hit at Wendy’s playdate with one of her classmates even though Evie was unimpressed.
The final success is roasted cauliflower. A nearby restaurant serves it and this was my second attempt at creating it at home and the more successful one. I took a head of cauliflower florets and microwaved them with some water for 4 minutes on high until they were beginning to get tender. I tossed them in some olive oil and then sprinkled them with panko. I made a spice mix of salt, pepper, and garlic powder (3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper) and sprinkled it on top of the cauliflower. I then drizzled more olive oil on top and baked covered at 375 degrees for 25 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. It is savory and melts in your mouth. My first grader gave it a thumbs up.
I’m hoping that this particular bandwagon continues with more hits to come. Ideas, as always are welcome!