Monday, March 30, 2009

quick dinner ideas



One thing I hear from clients is that pasta is almost always a favorite food for even picky eaters. You might consider introducing new flavors through familiar routes, like these ravioli or tortellini. Serve a favorite sauce with new pasta, or find a favorite pasta and try different sauces like pesto or marinara. Consider warming up a few small portions and letting your child dip penne or other pasta into different sauces. Make a pasta buffet one night so everyone can chose from two pastas, and two or three sauces and cheeses. (You can buy small amounts of grated cheeses...) Don't forget to back off the pressure and have fun! Maybe make it a traditional Thursday night event.

We serve this ravioli (Sunrise-available at our local Mississippi Market) a few ways. For a quick dinner- with jarred marinara or left-over home-made sauce. Can also serve with olive oil and grated parmesan or toss some into chicken soup.

 We may not eat them all at one dinner, so we often pack some away still frozen in a plastic bag, lable with contents and cooking directions or rip off the pertinent info form the packaging and include in the bag. These are frozen which makes them even more convenient to stock up on for last-minute dinners. 

Big Baby hysteria, here we go!

OK, this image is a joke, but it doesn't seem too far from how the discussion is going for "fat" babies. This topic touches a big nerve for me. My google-alert went crazy this morning with hundreds of articles about "rapid weight gain in infancy leads to later obesity."
2000 babies were studied (note, I have not read the actual study yet...) The way it is being reported is almost more interesting. 

Basically every story said that infants under 6 months with more rapid weight gain had a 40% higher chance of being overweight at age 3. Many infants with higher weight initially may be genetically predisposed to being larger, but can still be healthy. I did not get a sense for the degree of weight difference. Remember, in a 3 year old, as little weight difference as 5 pounds can span the range from "normal" to "obese." 
I will scan for a more scientific rebuttal and post it when I find it. Of note, breastfeeding, which the media claims will protect our children from obesity, (more guilt and fear for moms who had trouble with that) was not found to make a difference in this study. I did not see any explanation for that, other than one article, despite saying there was no difference making the claim that it was much easier to overfeed a bottle fed baby than a breast-fed baby. (Pseudi-science or no science conclusion. If it is "much easier" to overfeed a bottle fed baby, why did they find no difference?) There are too many questions, and not enough hard data, back-up, long-term follow up to warrant the media frenzy.

Meanwhile the hysteria continues. I think of my parent classes that I teach, and the moms of infants, one of whom compared feeding her healthy nine-month-old to "living on  knife-edge between anorexia and obesity." Does it have to be so hard?

My daughter was 9 lbs 11 ounces at birth (I had a normal pregnancy, gaining about 30 pounds.) She was off the charts, and stayed that way until about age 2. Only then did she start to come down onto the curve, and now at 3 1/2 is just under 90% which is still considered "overweight." She is "slimming down" and I am not doing anything other than feeding her in a trusting way, with mostly healthy food most of the time. She gets to eat ice-cream, fruit juice, and sometimes eats alot, sometimes a little. Most large infants will slim down if we don't intervene and restrict their intake. HOW we feed is critical. The Division of Responsibility will allow most children to grow at a steady, predictable rate, and there will naturally be some children larger than others. 

This  news is being reported so ambiguously. I fear that parents will read this and try to limit their infants' intake and will not trust to feed a larger infant on demand. The poor baby! To deprive a baby of food (what other message can parents take away when exorted to "maintain a healthy weight for their infants") is cruel. Infants will auto-regulate. Some infants will be big, and grow more quickly. If there is a true accelaration and crossing into higher percentiles, then there should be a discussion, but the message that a baby can be at the 100% or more and still be healthy is not in these stories. (It is possible that some parents overfeed. Why not have the story be about learning to listen to baby's cues for hunger and satiety? If a baby turns his head away, or pushes the bottle away, then they are indicating they are full. I did not see any mention in this study of HOW the parents are feeding...)

I recently saw my daughter's Great-grandmother's baby pictures. Born 90 years ago at 10 lbs 4 ounces, she is now on no medications and is a ping-pong and bridge champion. She chuckles about her "baby fat" in her 3 year old picture. Please let's not lose sight of common sense and give in to fear mongering. We do need to address how to properly feed children, but small studies with questionable conclusions screamed in the headlines to already anxious parents is not the answer. 

As my mentor taught me when I was worried about my big baby, "Bigger kids are harder to trust, but they are trustworthy." Let's not make matters worse by intervening inappropriately and causing the outcomes we are trying to avoid.

Friday, March 27, 2009

local and yummy


I went to a new "neighborhood general store" in Minneapolis yesterday called Local D'Lish. From their website: "We pride ourselves on customer service...we get to know our customers by name, we special order products with a simple phone call, we order smaller quantities to assure the freshest available....and most importantly every product in the store is grown or made right here in Minnesota and the Mid-west region. Every purchase from Local D'Lish is helping to support our own local farmers and small businesses."

Sounds good to me! I sampled delicious cookies, pepper jams, pancake mixes and started with a jar of garlic pepper jam from Lucille's Garden Kitchen which was yummy with cheese and a cracker, and I look forward to cooking with it soon! Stay posted!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Does it feel like you're working too hard?

A few nights ago, M and I went to our local Chinese Buffet (really a very good one) and settled into our booth. I popped up to get her noodles, broccoli and shrimp, as well as a few green beans which she wasn't too keen on the last time. Before I got back, I couldn't help but overhear the diners at the booth  behind us. 

"You have to eat two bites of chicken before I get you a donut." Dad chimed in with, "Chicken makes you strong, you know! Come on! Just two bites! Its protein!" The child remained quiet, but given that I heard this refrain throughout our entire meal, and as we were leaving, I am guessing he never ate the chicken. (Did he go home to a snack since Mom and Dad might not want him to go to bed hungry? Did they give in and let him eat donuts so he would at least eat something?)
 In the meantime M again tried, and declared that she liked the green beans, asking for seconds. She ate some shrimp, noodles and broccoli, and we enjoyed our meal. She told me about planting the garden at school and we shared how we both missed Daddy when he worked late. 

At one point, the non-chicken eater popped up and looked at us smiling, as kids do at booths. I overheard the family telling the waitress that he was 2 1/2 and the older brother was 9.

I thought many things during this meal...

Can I give them my card? Probably would not be welcome.
Unfortunately this scenario is more common than not, with 85% of parents of Kindergartners regularly pushing foods on kids. I fear that this has become the norm, and it doesn't have to be.

Was anyone actually enjoying dinner? Here is this wonderful family, with health and resources to be able to eat out together. It seemed like such a missed opportunity. It seemed like no one was having fun. Mom and Dad were caught up in the struggle with the two year old, and big brother hardly said anything.

What is my daughter M thinking as she hears these types of comments over and over again. At birthday parties where parents are bribing kids to eat one bite of noodle, or one Quesadilla before they get cake...

Although these scenarios are the norm, they don't have to be. Maybe if Mom knew that meats can be really hard for kids to warm up to, she could have backed-off the pressure. Maybe if he'd been offered some eggs or yogurt earlier in the day, or had milk with dinner she wouldn't worry about his protein intake. Maybe it would have helped if Dad had been told by the pediatrician that kids his age eat erratically and often eat very little at some sittings, and more at others. Maybe he had been born prematurely or had some other illness that made Mom and Dad concerned with his weight and intake- yet were going about things the wrong way. Maybe if there had been no pressure, he might have taken a bite on his own. Remember, 2 1/2 year olds don't like to always do what Mom and Dad want :)

I suggest that if anyone has concerns about feeding, tape-record or video with the lens cap on,  a few meals at your home. (Video tends to be intimidating.) Count how many times you pressure, bribe, suggest, cajole, beg your child to eat more, less, certain foods etc. How do you feel after a meal? Defeated, anxious, angry? Wouldn't it be nice to feel satisfied, happy, closer to your family (at least most meals?)

I think my biggest challenge in reaching parents might be getting the message across that it doesn't have to be so hard. You shouldn't have to work so hard! Your job is basically to put a variety of foods on the table at roughly scheduled times, and then let your child choose how much and if. If you eat a variety of foods, trust that as in everything else he does, your child wants to grow up and master this skill too. Obviously there's more to it, but this is the basic message.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter baskets


Easter is coming up for those who celebrate (or do the Easter Bunny thing.) Kids with allergies may feel left out, but here are some ideas for filling the basket for your kids with allergies.

I'm a little tired of the candy bonanzas of Valentine's Day and recent birthday parties, so I'm thinking about how to make Easter memories about more than just candy. Note, there will be candy, just not pounds of it.

So the basket will be there, with one chocolate bunny, a few little German chocolate lady-bugs that I remember from my own Easters, a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser, a special bubble wand and some new colored pencils and stickers.

Make it about rituals

Your kids will remember these as much or more than the candy.

We have a special Easter plate and decorations. We will decorate eggs with Paas kits, draw on them with markers and have a family brunch (even though its only the three of us we do it up.) I remember from my childhood, the white table cloth and flowers, the juice served in fancy glasses and dressing up. It was all wonderful.

Now, my family is a little more casual, but we still have the bunny plates and nice napkins and we'll make it special in our own way.

The white table cloth might be gone, but we'll do an Easter egg hunt. Last year was in the snow, but this year we'll keep our fingers crossed. We might decorate with some branches and hang eggs on them (whatever branch we can scavenge works) or you might by an Easter egg tree from a gift shop or Michaels.

What are your family rituals? Don't have any? Make them up. Go for a walk after the egg-hunt, have a "Signs of Spring" scavenger hunt, watch a favorite Easter movie, read Peter Cottontail out loud, wear bunny ears, go to Church as a family if that is what your family does. Make it special. Include candy, but make the focus on the whole experience.

And how to handle that candy? See my Valentine's post for details.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

budget friendly family cooking ideas

I really like this post with great specifics and examples of cooking for a family on a budget. Check it out. Inspiring! 

Monday, March 23, 2009

helping kids listen to their bodies

This is in response partly to a reader comment on the "listen to your body" posting. The notion is that kids are born with the ability to self-regulate– to know how much their bodies need, it is the parents' job to support that voice.

There is a fun study that took a bunch of toddlers and let them eat from a well-stocked and balanced buffet for several days. While each meal or snack would cause many of today's parents to fret over the food pyramid (one meal might only be bread, another only fruit for example) the kids uniformly ate a balanced diet when looked at over a period of days. The kids intuitively knew they needed balance, and they got it!

In terms of portions...  
Toddlers do not eat predictable portions. Their intake is erratic, which can be scary for parents, particularly if a child is small or has a history of illness. It is normal for most toddlers to eat very little at some meals, and then make up for it with a very large meal or snack.  Once parents recognize this as normal, the worry can ease, as well as the pressure a parent might feel to get a child to eat a certain amount, but no more. 

Most children under five routinely eat what they need and no more in terms of calories. (When served a large portion, these kids ate only what they were hungry for.) Parents must learn to foster and nurture this gift, not undermine it. (Many parents might push "one more bite," or limit a hungry toddler to an arbitrary portion, or feel pressured to feed fruits and vegetables at every sitting. This pressure often backfires– with  kids eating fewer fruits and veggies, or gobbling more than we think they should after being restricted.)

 I watched this unfold with my daughter and its pretty amazing. I initially worried  if she ate only carbs and protein  one meal, but then the next snack would be a clementine, a pear and some milk, or cherry tomatoes and bread. Over a few days, the variety in the diet can be really astounding.

How to  foster the  child's inner voice

1) Maintain the division of responsibility in feeding. You put a variety of food on the table . Your child chooses from the foods and decides how much and whether to eat.

2) Model listening to your body. "My tummy is full, I'm going to stop eating."
(This sends a better message  than, "I've put on some weight, I really want more potatoes, but I should stop now or I'll get fat.)

3) You might ask "Is your tummy  still hungry for more apples?"

4) Help kids distinguish emotions from hunger. One friend told me about a time when her almost 3 year old asked for a cookie. He seemed sad, and she sat him down and asked if he felt hungry, or just sad and if he might need a hug.  A long cuddle followed and he forgot about the cookie. His needs were met. 

Its this notion that what and how much we eat largely should be determined by our bodies and our hunger- not by our brains. Eating becomes too much about control, "shoulds" and deprivation which fundamentally distorts our ability to listen to our bodies. We eat until we're uncomfortably full, we skip breakfast to save calories and our hormones go crazy and we're ravenously hungry by noon. Or we've gotten stuck on the diet roller-coaster where we deprive and reward with food. I will be training in November to help adults learn to tune into their bodies again. It is harder for adults to relearn than it is for kids to maintain or relearn. So for now my mission is to reach as many parents as I can to protect and nurture the child's inner voice. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

teflon musings and new pan

I just got a new non-stick pan from Target. I love it. Its the Paula Dean 12 inch. ($30)

Things I like:
1) rounded bottom so I don't have to scrape out edges
2) cheaper than many pans
3) much lighter than the fancy Calphalon pans 
4) no plastic handle on the opposite end which tend to smell and melt if put over the heat
5) my standard glass top fits on this pan. No need to buy a new top.
6) still big enough for my one pan skillet meals

I threw out my last pan because the teflon coating was starting to show wear, and I have safety concerns at that point. 

A few thoughts about teflon

It is the only known surface a gecko can't stick to. (In case you ever have a gecko infestation.)

You should only use wood, silicone or plastic utensils to cook or serve when using teflon pans. (Metals will scratch the surface.)

Always put some kind of oil in the pan if heating before cooking. Teflon can give off dangerous gasses that cause flu-like symptoms when it reaches temperatures above 500 degrees. Oils will scorch well before that, which acts as a kind of temperature gauge. Never leave a teflon pan on heat unattended. It can get too hot very quickly.  Otherwise, I approach teflon with common sense. Discard teflon pans that show wear,  be careful with the heat and I believe its safe for our family to cook with, and so convenient! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick Honey-dijon dressing. VIDEO!! woo-hoo

Its video time! No rehearsal, no tripod, no lighting... but here it is, my first video-recipe. This is a great first home-made salad dressing if you're new to it.
I learned to cook largely from watching my mom so I thought this casual, real-time video would be helpful. One of my complaints about most recipes is they're too complicated for new cooks, have too many implements to clean or too many ingredients for a weeknight. This FFD Quick Honey-Mustard salad dressing has only 4 ingredients and is done in less than 1 minute. (The video is over two minutes because I like to ramble.) Mix the dressing in the bowl you plan to serve your salad. In a hurry? Add a bag of pre-washed lettuce, throw in a couple cherry tomatoes, some Craisins and toss. You can get as simple or fancy as you want. Stop by the salad bar on the way home for shredded carrots or pre-sliced veggies with your rotisserie chicken. Still way cheaper than buying a complete salad for one for $8... Snip in a little fresh dill if you have the time and inclination. Once summer comes, farmers' markets have lots of fresh, cheap lettuce that is locally grown.

Ingredients: dijon mustard, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, honey

video
My husband grew up eating bottled dressings,  while I grew up in a house that never had bottled dressings. Consequently, Hidden Valley ranch is a huge treat for me, and home-made is a treat for my husband. With a 'best of both worlds attitude,' we make home-made but also have some ranch on hand for quick dipping.
 M loves this dressing, and is now starting to eat salads. (Lettuce can be tricky for some kids in terms of texture.) She accepted other raw veggies long before lettuce. She's a little funny about only wanting the "light green" parts, but she enjoys salads with us. This is a nice sauce for dipping veggies too. 
M often helps squeeze the honey in, or stir the sauce, but I wasn't sure how that would work on video (and I don't want to use her when at 3 its not really her choice...)
 White balsamic is my new go-to vinegar. Sweet and acidic, and its not brown which can be a little unappealing with some foods with straight Balsamic.

"watch portion size," or listen to your body?

I read a little study in the Journal of  American Dietetics Association (JADA) recently. It happens often these days that I finish an article and come up with completely different conclusions.

The title was:

The Effect of Portion Size Information on Food Intake

Basically, they studied 33 non-dieting adults. On three different occasions, they were given different “portion” sizes of pasta like ½ or 1  or 1 1/2 portions. They were informed of the portion size.  They were told that they were comparing sauces and to eat to a level of "comfortable satiety" or comfortable fullness.  What the study wanted to test was if portion size information guided folks on how much to eat. In theory, telling someone they were getting one portion meant they would stop after that portion.

However, the information they were given about portion size did NOT influence the amount eaten. Participants ate roughly the same amount whether they were initially given 1/2 a portion or more than a portion. 

HUNGER IS THE BEST COOK

On another note, subjects rated their hunger levels before meals and rated how much they liked different sauces. The best predictor of whether they liked the taste? How hungry they were before the meal.  How does this relate to childhood feeding and your picky- eater? Allowing children to develop an appetite by stopping grazing and spacing meals every 2-3 hours or so will help them accept and like foods more. A hungry (but not ravenous) child will be more willing to try a new food than one that has been snacking on Goldfish all day.

Back to portions...

The conclusion was that telling folks what a "portion" size is may not help guide the amount eaten.  And yet, every weight loss advice/book/article mentions "portion control." 

What I liked about this study was not pointed out by the authors. The subjects all seemed to know how much they wanted to eat. They didn't eat more when faced with a larger portion, they ate the same amount, to "comfortable satiety" when instructed. I actually think this is good news. Perhaps we should start out wellness advice with "eat until you are comfortably full." It is your body, not some external set of rules that dictates how much you eat. This is called intuitive eating.

A caveat is that these were non-dieting adults. I wonder what the difference would have been if the subjects had been dieters. Would they have been able to self-regulate? Would the deprivation of dieting and ignoring of internal hunger cues have led them to eat more? Or perhaps dieters would have eaten less, paying attention to the rules of  "portion" size even if they were hungry? (Friends and patients who are chronic dieters tell me this is a pattern of eating they get stuck in. Skip meals, eat small "portions" like a Healthy Choice meal, arrive home from work ravenously hungry and eat large amounts to a point of being uncomfortably full.)

I don't know, but it seems to point out again that one of the mantras of the weight-loss world of "portion" control is probably not the helpful tool we thought it was. 

I'm not saying pile your plate with 3 pounds of pasta, but start with a reasonable amount, and if you're still hungry, have seconds. Eat with intention, with attention, and listen to, or learn to listen to your body again...

Monday, March 16, 2009

cooking for families with allergies

I saw this book on an allergy site and asked my friend Jenny if she had any favorite cooking tips for families dealing with allergy issues. Her daughter has egg, dairy and nut allergies. Here are her words of wisdom dealing with this issue for more than three years...

"I have tried lots of recipes from allergy-free cookbooks and newsletter, and they've been uniformly pretty limp. The exception has been Isa Moskowitz, a vegan chef in NYC. Her website theppk.com (postpunk kitchen) has lots of recipes that actually taste good, as does her "Vegan with a Vengeance" cook book. The best is her "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" cookbook–they rock. The one thing I have to be careful of with her stuff is nuts- since she's writing for vegans, not food allergy folks, there are lots of nutty recipes. The cookbooks and web site are also great resources for egg and dairy substitutes, of which there are many.
Other than that, I've had the most luck with modifying my existing recipes and looking for new ones that either are OK to start with or can easily be modified with actual food, as opposed to things like powdered egg replacer."
Thanks Jenny!
Good luck! Any other favorite sites/recipes Moms?

Friday, March 13, 2009

chicken soup (recipe #2 from roast chicken...)



Take the bones and leftover meat/neck and pan drippings from the other night roast chicken... (Pan drippings will likely have a layer of orangey fat on top if you refrigerated them. You can remove most of this. There will be a gelatin-like layer that is really yummy and will melt when heated. Don't throw this out (see picture.) FYI, my Dad used to eat this spread on bread post-WWII in England. I haven't gotten up the nerve to try this yet (a reminder of how tough it can be to try new foods for even an adventurous eater, much less if you are a picky eater!)

LEFTOVER CHICKEN SOUP (easy prep 15 minutes, simmer time up to 1 hour, quick version in 30 minutes)

1)Cut up one large leek (or onion.) Trim off the bottom roots, and the top rough, dark green parts.  Wash off dirt thoroughly between leaves. (Upcoming blog on leeks will give more details.)
2) peel and cut 2 medium carrots (roughly 1/4 inch size)
3) peel and chop 1-2 celery stalks (my husband doesn't like crunchy celery so I let my soup cook a little longer...)
Add a little olive oil to bottom of soup pot. put in chopped veggies and simmer on medium until wilted, about 5 minutes May add a smashed garlic clove that is peeled (don't use bottled minced, just dump a clove in or skip this step.)
5) dump in 1 or 2 (if you want more soup)  cartons of chicken stock (1 liter I think) add bones, meat, and drippings and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes (longer if you want slightly richer taste.) Remove bones with tongs or slotted spoon. Shred meat if there is left-over meat.
6) add  about 1 cup (more if you want a thick, noodley soup) of your starch. You can use traditional soup noodles (can get alphabet noodles for kids) or small egg noodles that cook fast.  If you have gluten issues or allergies with eggs and dairy, you can add  left-over rice, or quick-cook grain such as barley, whatever starch you want that goes with your dietary needs. You can also add frozen green peas, a can of drained navy beans, chopped kale or chard at this point. Start with the basics and then add things as you get comfortable with it. Cook until starch is done and veggies are hot or wilted.  Snip in washed, fresh parsley before serving if you want. May need to salt to taste. Many broth brands are quite salty so I usually don't add salt and let everyone salt their own. 
Serve with warm oven-rolls (Alexia or super-market loaf that you can take home and finish baking.) 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

gagging can mean many things...


I got an email from a mom about her son's picky eating and how he often gagged when given new foods (he is a young toddler.)
Dealing with these questions over email is difficult. Gagging can mean so many things, from a normal physiological reflex, to a sign of a serious developmental problem.

Occasional gagging in infants and young toddlers is most often completely normal. As children learn to eat, they have a very strong gag reflex that will weaken (move farther back in the mouth) over time. Gagging is very common for the older infant learning to eat foods with more texture. For a child who has eaten well, grown well and is healthy, it can be a little disconcerting, but is most often not cause for concern.  Infants like to mouth toys and even gag themselves (my daughter went through a phase of gagging herself with toys.) While this looks odd, they are doing important work to prepare them for eating solid foods. As much as possible, try not to react with too much concern. If you hop up and hold a cloth under her, or appear panicked every time she gags, she will feel scared and this may upset her and affect her eating. 
On the other hand, gagging more than a few times a day may mean you are moving too quickly with textures. Try pureeing foods or mashing them a bit more and moving on with more texture later. Some kids like to take big bites (my daughter) and might not do well with teething biscuits or cheerios while other kids their age do well. Be responsive to your child. (M would bite off big pieces of Zwieback and gag, so we just didn't offer them. She did better with more melt in your mouth foods like buttered toast pieces or graham crackers.)

Tips to reduce gagging:
1)Eat at the table, not on the go
2)minimize distractions like TV
3)have age appropriate foods (Child Of Mine by Ellyn Satter is a great resource on the details of how to feed.)
4)Advance feeding based on your child's development, not age
5) have your child sitting up-right in a properly supported chair
6) avoid high risk choking foods in kids under 3 (nuts, hot dogs, grapes, popcorn)
cut grapes in quarters and halves as kids progress
7) always be with your child when eating and learn CPR in case she is choking

Some gagging is not normal.
If your child has a medical history of feeding problems, physical problems, frequent pneumonia or infections that might indicate foods are slipping down the wrong pipe, Downs Syndrome, autism, poor growth, rapid dropping of previously accepted foods, you should look into things further with your child's doctor.
If your older child is gagging over new foods and you are engaged in feeding battles, you need help. This is scary and a very negative experience. Never make a child eat a food he has gagged up onto the plate. There may be some sensory integration issues or behavioral issues that are contributing.
If your child has always had problems feeding, something else might be going on. Always talk to your child's health provider if you have concerns, or just aren't sure. You might consider getting video of your child gagging to bring to your doctor if you have a concern. A picture is worth a thousand words. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

easy roasted chicken (cook once, eat 3 times...)


I love roasted chicken, and this is a super-easy way to do it. Cook it on a Sunday and eat quick chicken soup on Monday and enchiladas or pasta another night-recipes to come! (Eat three times from a $4 chicken or $8 if organic-still a bargain in today's economy.) Of course if you have a larger family or active teenagers, you might not have many leftovers! (Consider roasting two!)

This is how my Mom does the chicken, and I love it. We used to stuff the chicken if it was a big one, but I skip that these days. I also use a pyrex dish, but you can use a shallow metal baking pan. Anything that will keep in the juices is fine. I no longer wash the chicken, as I read somewhere the washing actually spreads bacteria. I try to keep one hand clean, but I usually end up washing my hands a few times during prep. It really helps if you can have a child or helper pour on the spices and oil while you turn and rub the chicken. If you don't like handling raw chicken you can use a basting brush. It tends to be cheaper than rotisserie chicken and you get to eat it when its just out of the oven and enjoy the roasting smell!

No fuss Roast chicken (preheat oven to 450 degrees) prep time less than 10 minutes
cook time 1 1/2 hours (ingredients in purple)

1 roaster chicken, remove neck or innards from the cavity (save neck if doing soup)

1)rub chicken with salt (2 teaspoons or so,) pepper, paprika (1-2 tsps) and Italian herbs (2 tsps or so) with a drizzle of olive oil to coat. (See bottom picture.) 
2)Place bird with the breast up, little wings tucked under. You don't need to tie the legs. (Optional is to crush 2 cloves of garlic into the hole...)
Be sure there is oil on the bottom of the bird/pan so it doesn't stick. 
3)Place in 450 degree oven with tin foil loosely covering. Turn heat down to 400 after 30 minutes and cook another hour or so (longer for bigger chicken.) Cut in near thigh to look for clear juices, or use a meat thermometer (will say what temp on it.) You may brush it with oil during cooking, but I've omitted this step and it turns out fine. When its done it looks like the chicken at top of page. If you want to eat the skin and get it a little crispy, just remove the foil with about 15 minutes left. You'll need to pay a little more attention then that it doesn't burn. 

I overcooked it last time, so the meat was falling off the bones and it was still awesome. Its pretty fool-proof. My husband LOVES chicken and could eat the whole thing, and my daughter likes the breast meat dipped in ketchup of course! Its fun now at 3 1/2 that she is starting to notice and comment on the smells of cooking. Its so rewarding when she comes into the kitchen and says "Mommy, it smells so yummy!" (Not so fun when she says "it smells yucky"– dill for example...)

Serve with oven potato sides, or mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots and peas, microwaved acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar, stuffing...  

Save left-over bones in a bag with drippings too (makes an awesome soup, recipe to come...)

Can shred any leftover meat and store in a ziplock bag for enchiladas, pulled chicken sandwiches...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

magic eraser, I LOVE IT

I should get stock. I love these magic erasers. I felt a little like a cleaning commercial the first time I used these and took fingerprints/smudges off the walls and trim. I was "Oo-ing and Ah-ing" and wearing a smile as I flitted about looking for things to clean.
It also cleans some of the really hard caked on stuff from my Pyrex roaster pan and my ceramic crock pot insert. (I don't think its safe on Teflon or no-stick finishes...) It gets bath tubs really clean, and my in-laws swear by it in their RV. (I spent half an hour scrubbing our OLD and refinished tub with sponge and cleaner. I took this guy to the stains and they were gone in ten seconds without any toxic cleaner smell.) It has cleaned pretty much everything I've tried it on. I use one for kitchen that I can reuse a few times, and another for bathrooms etc.  Do be careful as they are abrasive, but they truly are magic! 

Friday, March 6, 2009

who says "food jags" are just for kids?!

I usually don't like fake-meat products, but I love these Morning Star "sausage" patties. (They're on sale this week at Target.) I've been really into my home-made sausage muffins (like the McMuffin) for lunch with some yogurt or fruit (and a mini can of Coke when I feel like it.) 
I coat a large pan with cooking spray, and heat one of the patties through (takes about  8-10 minutes.) Then I put an two English muffin halves insides down onto the pan and let them warm up. While doing this I crack an egg into the other side of the pan. I flip the egg and break the yolk so its cooked through. While the egg is cooking, I flip over the muffin halves and put a piece of cheese onto one half. I often have to cover the pan to get the cheese to melt. (Watch the soy patty so that it doesn't burn.) Once cheese is melted, layer on the sausage, egg and top with the toasty muffin. I LOVE these. (I will probably over do it and then not eat them for a year!!) Its yummy, pretty well-rounded and hits the salt flavors that I love. Definately better for you than the ones from Mcd's, cheaper and pretty quick too!  These are my favorite camping breakfast food with our old Coleman stove and a pan!
Do any of you go through food "jags?" Its a normal thing for toddlers, and sometimes adults too! (My husband likes these minus sausage – real or fake he doesn't like the flavor. M takes a few bites, but doesn't like egg yolk, so this is pretty much my treat!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

canned and frozen are often just as good


In the winter months, its hard to eat fresh and local. These days there is such a push for "fresh" and even "organic" that we can tend to forget about the benefits of canned and frozen. Check out this article about alternatives to fresh by the president of the Mineesota Dietetics Association, Michele Gorman.  Also, check out my recipe for beet and canned corn salad
 
Picky toddlers sometimes do strange things. My friend's daughter liked to snack on frozen mixed vegetables. My daughter loved eating frozen blueberries and frozen peas at around 18 months. These days she likes blueberries with yogurt. Blueberries are a great source of anti-oxidants and lots of other good stuff. (Remember that color in fruits and veggies is more than just pretty. There are tons of nutrients represented by the colors– red peppers, blue berries, deep green kale, broccoli, pink beets, and orange carrots...) 
Colors are an opportunity to talk to and expose kids to different foods in a positive way. While you eat carrots, you might casually mention other foods that are orange. "Tim, what else is orange like this carrot?"  (Oranges, tangerines, sweet potatoes, acorn squash..)  Berries make vanilla yogurt turn colors, pink beets make your tongue pink etc...
Throw peas in with mac and cheese, use frozen berries with yogurt, ice-milk or ice-cream for a treat. 
The point is, adding frozen and canned opens more doors to variety which is the key to enjoyment of food and good nutrition.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

it came with the cat.

We adopted two cats this weekend, and this Bratz doll was the favored toy of one so it was "included." I wanted to get rid of it before my daughter saw it, but she got to it first. She liked the purple hair and the scent (it was perfumed) but luckily was otherwise not impressed.
(It is now in the garbage– and the cats are doing fine...)
Its really sad to look at this wildly successful doll. We used to think Barbie was bad. (There is a nice study out of Australia that showed that even 4 year olds exposed to Barbie had negative thoughts about their own bodies, vs playing with an Emma doll that had more natural proportions.)
These Bratz dolls are given to young girls. Hot-pants, belly-ring, snake-skin boots, crop-top, lip-liner, droopy come-hither eyes with lots of shadow, big hoop earrings, long hair and scented! (My husband likes to tease me when I get mad about this kind of thing and says, "OK, but she's hot!") Just my point. She's hot, skinny and not the role model I want for my pre-schooler. Just a thought.

fish stick recipe modification for egg allergies...

If you want to make breaded fish and chicken  without eggs you can. Its a little more difficult, because the egg is such a good binder. 
Skip the egg and flour steps. Pat your protein dry, rub a thin layer of dijon or yellow mustard all over the meat (can use your fingers or put the protein in a ziplock bag with a little mustard and squish it around. You'll need a really firm fish if you are going to do this. ) Then take the meat out, dip it and coat it in the bread crumbs and put into the hot, oiled pan as the recipe says.
Even people who don't like mustard like this. You don't really taste the mustard, but it gives it a nice flavor. If you have too much mustard, the breading will come off. Try to let the meat cook undisturbed and flip only once if possible. (A pair of tongs makes the flipping easy, but you can use a fork.) You can always cut one in half to see if its cooked through. 
Good luck!

Monday, March 2, 2009

protein and packing lunches

So the daily task of packing lunch for school/daycare. I always try to include a protein, fat and carb at every meal/snack. Some days I do better than others. (The protein might be left-overs, turkey sandwich, yogurt, rolled up ham and miracle-whip, hummus... Carbs can be fruits/grape tomatoes, apple-sauce, Tings, tortilla chips, crackers...  Fat would be butter, dips and dressings (I don't recommend fat-free), miracle whip, oatmeal cookie...
After a crazy weekend, I realized we had no left-overs and no lunch meats– our primary sources of packable protein. 
So, I made eggs for breakfast (medium boiled with her special lady-bug egg cup.) M still only eats the whites, but I figured she's get a good start to the day along with the cereal and banana on offer.
For lunch I packed her thermos with some corn (one of her favorites), apple-sauce, grape tomatoes and an oatmeal cookie. I try to include the carb/protein/fat, but I don't worry about it too much if I don't get it all offered at every meal. (And though I'm used to basically narrating everything I do and chatting with M, I consciously stopped myself from sharing my thinking. I did not say, "We'll have some eggs this morning so you can have some protein!" She doesn't need to know that yet, and why give her the opening to object?  Her job is to eat from what I put in front of her. Its my job to be thoughtful about what I present.)
 Its reassuring for parents of picky or "under" eaters to know that you can think of the food pyramid over a period of days. If you watch kids, most will get what they need that way. Maybe more chicken one night, more fruit the next day. If you try to get most young kids to eat the pyramid every day, or god forbid every meal as I've seen advise, you are setting yourself up for food struggles and misery.  Anyone have any great meal packing tips to share?