Monthly Archives: August 2011

Grape Tomatoes

August 26, 20111 Comment


Before a room of bright-eyed conference-goers, a well-known figure in the food writing community delivered a captivating keynote speech in which she announced she hates cooking with kids. Nervous peals of laughter filled the room in response. I could relate to her sentiment, something I’m not proud to admit, and laughed right along with the rest of the pencil-and-pad wielding writers in the room. “It’s just such a mess,” the mother of three continued, and I agreed. Yes, it’s a disaster. And though I love time spent with my boys in the kitchen, I must steel myself each time, quietly working to remain calm as oil spills creep along my counter or eggs roll in slow motion to the hard tile floor. Of course, all of this can be cleaned up. In the wise and true words of my friend Chris, “just about everything cleans up.” Right you are, Chris.

Aside from the mess, there are the arguments over who does what. Certain tasks are ill-suited to the kindergarten set – handling sharp knives, working over a hot stove. But other jobs are simply done more quickly and easily by an adult. I like to allow my oldest, nearly 6, to be in charge of the relatively-safe dry ingredients. We count the cups or teaspoons and I let him use a dull butter knife to level and if a cup of flour ends up down his front or on the floor instead of in the bowl, I try like hell not to show my frustration. “It’s okay, sweetie, let’s get a sponge. And the vacuum.”

One of the easiest ways to get kids interested in food is to invite them into the kitchen. I recall a song from “Free to Be You and Me” – a favorite to this day! – about the kind of help “we all can do without.” But, it’s not always about making it quickly or perfectly. No, it’s about the process and time spent together. It took a long time to make these empanadas since I let the kids roll out the dough and seal the edges, but it was a relaxed Sunday. When I can swing it, I try to remember it’s about learning through showing and not simply telling.

Whether you’re enjoying a few more precious days of summer or already have a week of school under your belt, you won’t want to miss my school lunch round up. In addition to my ideas for making school lunch more fun, this week’s recipes go easily from dinner table to lunch box. As is the case with cooking, kids are more likely to be interested if you let them take part in selecting foods and making their own lunches.

I suppose one day far sooner than I’d like, when my boys are off at college or in their own homes urging their own little ones to try just one bite, I’m going to wish for the days when tiny hands created gargantuan messes in my kitchen. Or I’ll think back to the days of packing one school lunch after the next, eager for new inspiration. And what I’ll remember won’t be the sticky counters, splattered back splash or rejected sandwiches, but the smiles and the accomplishment at having made something together.

Grape Tomato Lists

August 26, 2011Comments Off on Grape Tomato Lists

3 cups grape tomatoes

3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes

1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes

2 small heirloom tomatoes

1 green zebra tomato

2 large sweet potatoes

1 small yellow onion

9 garlic cloves

1 lime

Fresh basil

Fresh oregano

Fresh thyme

Fresh mint

Meat / Fish

1 pound ground turkey (7% fat)

1-1/4 pound ground turkey breast

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1 cup shredded Monterey Jack

1/2 cup shredded cheddar

1 cup milk

5 eggs

Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1-9″ frozen pie shell

1 pound bocconcini (small balls of mozzarella packed in whey)

Pantry Staples

Whole wheat flour

All-purpose flour

Fine ground cornmeal

15 oz. can black beans

1/2 pound cavatappi or other short pasta

Brown sugar

Spanish smoked paprika (sweet)

Whole wheat couscous

Whole wheat Israeli (pearl) couscous

Worcestershire sauce

Chicken stock

Tomato paste


Natural tomato ketchup

Note: List does not include “weekend splurge” ingredients.


August 18, 20112 Comments

SUMMER 2011. ZUCCHINI. 08.19.11

Before we speak words understandable to anyone but our parents, or walk on our own two feet, we begin to learn one of life’s early and important lessons – sharing. At first, it’s a toy or snack we’re asked to allow a friend or sibling to enjoy alongside us. As we grow older, the concept broadens. We share emotions, or an experience, or the glow of the limelight after a job well-done. On a daily basis, I plead with my children to share. Any parent of young children can relate. Tell me about your day. Let your brother have a turn. There is no such thing as “the bigger half.” Yeah, well I don’t care whose it is.  

This week, I was reminded of the profound power in this most basic life skill. I had just returned from delivering a thick wedge of peanut butter pie to one neighbor, when another knocked on my front door. “Do your boys like watermelon?” she wanted to know (answer here).  With a warm smile, she handed me a newborn-sized homegrown melon. I cradled it in my arms, cooing softly as if I was accepting a swaddled bundle of joy. It’s a boy!

A short while later, I was invited to enjoy a beautiful lunch on the sun-drenched roof deck of yet another set of lovely neighbors, who were testing and photographing recipes for their next cookbook. Did I want to join them for a meal of grilled soft shell crabs, flounder, mackerel, lamb shoulder and various summer salads made with ripe, local vegetables? Be still my growling belly. As a token to my gracious hosts, I brought a small basket of goodies from my parents’ garden, which I had obtained in an exchange just days before. When I delivered my offering to my parents (hint: one is nearly 6, the other just 3), they returned the favor with a voluptuous basket of peppers, several varieties of tomatoes and sweet, juicy peaches. A nice trade for all, I think. They had grown all but the peaches in the prolific rectangular plot in their side yard. And finally, as I bounded up the hill towards home after a walk the next morning, I was stopped by the same neighbor who had shared ramps with me earlier this spring, resulting in this dish. She invited me in, handing me a bag of pears picked from the backyard of their West Virginia get-outta-the-city home and a large Mason jar filled with pear juice they’d made at a “pressing party” that weekend. Arms, belly and heart full, I took one moment to breathe it in. These are the feelings sharing can evoke – warmth, happiness, love, friendship, gratitude.

Whether you’re being buried alive with zucchini bursting from your own garden, or you’re blessed with kindhearted, green-thumbed neighbors like mine, this week is sure to please. If the ideas below don’t get you going, check out these recipes from prior posts.

Next week it’s back to school! I’m whipping up dishes that go seamlessly from the dinner table to the lunchbox. Until then, I leave you with this quote by Donna A. Favors, “…it’s only through sharing that friendships are born.” Simple, yet spot on.

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