Paralysis by Nutritional Analysis – Potato Veggie Latkes

What a rat hole eating well can be if you don’t use common sense!  Seriously, I just spent thirty minutes reading about butter.  Yes, I said butter!  One ingredient.

I was just curious about whether or not butter was considered a “clean” food.  Don’t get me wrong, I have never proclaimed to eat clean.  I try to prepare healthy meals for my family and use real food while doing it.  Real butter, by the way, containing only cream, counts as real in my book.

Lately I have just been browsing around the world  of food theory and terms and it’s no wonder some people can get backed into a corner of absolute inertia when it comes to trying to change or improve eating habits.  There’s so much information out there and so much of it absolutely contradictory.  There’s a whole segment of the nutrition and dietary world that seems so police-like and legalistic to me.  Personally, I think such absolute approaches to food do more to hinder positive change rather than help it.  Loads of people have been duped into thinking that they need to be able to follow a very narrow set of prescribed rules in order to eat well.  Just the worry of how you “would” or “could” navigate certain obstacles that “might” come up (for example, a lunch out with a friend) can keep a person sitting on the sidelines of eating well, or at least better, than they are currently eating. I say, jump into the game!  If you get a foul, you get a foul.  Don’t we usually learn from our mistakes, blunders, slip ups, and flat out failures?

Back to my friend, the butter . . . If you eat a dish containing all vegetables, herbs, and a little butter instead of a casserole of meat, condensed soup, an artificial cheese product and prepackaged crescent rolls, aren’t you really improving your game?  I think the answer is an unquestionable “YES”.

We don’t do anything else in our lives perfectly, so why should we think we can eat perfectly?  Sure, you can spend another week or two trying to decide whether or not coconut oil is really better for you than olive oil, all the while eating your Kraft mac-n-cheese and Marie Callender’s chicken pot pies, and then you’ll just be another casualty to paralysis by analysis ( I have always loved that little gem of a saying). Not to mention that once you figure out the coconut oil dilemma, there will be another new and trendy food item on the shelves for you to figure out. In my book, what really counts is to start now and take baby steps.  Don’t worry too much about the technicalities of the game; those are kinks you can always iron out as you go.  For now just get the basics down in your playbook and build from there.

There are a million blogs out there that will give you their version of the basics.  My basics are really basic – fruits, veggies, whole grains.  I just have a fun little suggestion that could help you in your game.  Go hit your local farmer’s market or produce store.  Grab a veggie you have never had . . .  or just haven’t spent quality time with lately.  Buy enough of it to feed your family.  Once you are home, type the name of what you bought into the Food Blog Search. Epicurious can work just as well – it’s my personal fav.  In seconds I guarantee you’ll find some fabulous recipes to encourage you in your cooking and eating well journey.  And in my book an ounce of encouragement and confidence easily outweighs a pound of rules!

I recently did this, not with unfamiliar ingredients, but just with what I had on hand, and ended up making these great Potato Veggie Latkes.

I started by grating up some peeled carrots, peeled potatoes, and zucchini.


To that, I added some lightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper, and panko.


I heated some olive oil in a skillet and then dropped scoops of my mixture in and fried for about 3 minutes per side.


I pulled them out when they were just golden on both sides and holding together well.


I served them up with some homemade (yes, crockpot) applesauce and a bit of sour cream, and then finished the meal off with a green salad.  Simple yumminess!


Here’s the complete recipe for Potato Veggie Latkes, adapted the Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.

Want to explore more latke options?  Have a gander . . .

Zesty Sweet Potato-Zucchini Latkes with Cilantro Lime Dip (
Vegetable Latkes (
Meatless Monday: Baked Sweet Potato Latkes (

By the way, this year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah converge on Thursday, November 28th. This is an event that won’t take place for another 79,000 years. You may want to pass a few latkes alongside your turkey to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event!

Kiddos in the Kitchen – Scones & Flourless Chocolate Cakes

We have a really amazing little gig going in our neighborhood called the Children’s Resource Center.  It’s geared for educators really, but open to everyone.  We try to hit it at least every two weeks.  We check out games, books, puppets – you name it.  It’s basically the library concept, but with a lot more to choose from.  The upside is that we get to try without the BUY.  I especially love this for games since so often we buy a game, are hot on it for a couple of weeks and then it goes to rest in the game cupboard with all of the other various games that were once all the rage in this household.  With the Resource Center, we just return it once the love affair is over.

The down side to this system is that we have to be uber careful of how we treat these borrowed items.  Now for Big Little One and Medium Little One, this is a great lesson in responsibility. Little Little One even gets this and it’s good practice for her as well.  Wee One?  Not so much!  Just last week I had to go slinking back to the Resource Center, head hanging, tail between my legs, and broken game board in hand.  Yep, she quartered it!  Maybe surgery is in her future, because it sure was a clean cut and I can’t imagine that it was that easy to rip through.  I mean it WAS a game board and not her usual construction paper victim!

Recently, we have been on a little cookbook borrowing spree from the Resource Center.  Now I must admit that I’m really not a fan of the kids cookbook genre.  If I’m going to spend time cooking with my kiddos, I want the end result to actually taste good.  My experience has been that so many kids cookbooks sacrifice taste for ease of preparation and really miss the point when it comes to actually letting the kids COOK and not just assemble.  So you can imagine my jubilation when we hit on a cookbook that produced not one, not two, but three wonderful culinary treats.  Yes, we were three for three.  They whipped up a trio of recipes and every one was tasty. Safe to say the Around the World cookbook, will be checked out again by our little clan.


Big Little One first whipped up some marvelous scones, and in my opinion, scones are not an easy one to nail.  They’re often too dry.  These ones were just right – to quote Goldilocks.


Medium Little One pulled her own weight in the kitchen and served up a Tunisian soup (typically eaten at breakfast time in Tunisia) known as Leb Lebi.  So easy and yet very flavorful – and no, we didn’t go all cultural and eat it for breakfast; we stuck with it as dinner fare.


And just because we force teamwork around these parts from time to time, the sisters collaborated on a little flourless chocolate cake number that even surprised me.  I just wasn’t expecting great results from something made in cupcake papers and using chocolate chips.  But they were good.  Like really good.  Like wow.  Like they disappeared so fast I am sorry to say that I don’t have a photo to share with you.

So there you go.  Another stereotype blown away – kids cookbooks can actually groove with some flavor and Abigail Johnson Dodge definitely does so in this one.  Hope you will find some time to bond with your kiddo in the kitchen.  If you do, here are a couple of the recipes mentioned above.

British Scones

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

Pizza Boxes, Pumpkins & Chickees – Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread

These last couple of weeks, there has been just way too much creativity pumping through this house.  As if the joy of Halloween costumes for four small people weren’t enough, we have painted pizza boxes which we hope to get displayed at CPK, crafted a pumpkin (not carved, mind you) which will be displayed in preschool, half built a chickee which will be displayed at the school’s American Indian mock museum, and handcrafted a clay pot which will also be shown at the very same mock museum.  Now I love, creativity, don’t get me wrong, but whoaaaaaa.  All that in the course of two short weeks?   I’m whooped.

The pizza box painting was really enjoyable.  Mainly because Big Little One and Medium little One were totally self sufficient in their creation.  Did I mention that I really love crafts accompanied by self-sufficiency?

The pumpkin project too was very enjoyable, once we got past the design phase.  I – while background processing major items on my schedule, the amount of laundry piled in the garage, my daily taxiing schedule, and various other logistical concerns, was suggesting very cut and dry pumpkin projects; you could paint your pumpkin white and call it a snowman, you could put stickers on your pumpkin, you could stick Mr. Potato Head pieces into your pumpkin.  You fellow adults see where I am going with these suggestions, right?  EASY.  Unfortunately, the four year old would not budge from her own original scope of Project Pumpkin – – – a butterfly pumpkin.  So I acquiesced and off she went.  Aside from some super glue assistance, she was at the helm and it was honestly a delight to watch her work.

You, especially if you are a mother yourself, know this little craft saga can’t be all joy and light.  Enter the chickee.  Haven’t brushed up on your Native American tribes and habitats lately and need a refresher?  Well, a chickee is the type of hut built by the Seminole Indians who inhabited the Southeastern area of our country.  That would be the first definition you would probably find in the dictionary were you to look it up.  I would add a secondary definition and it would read something like this, “Pathetic looking hut; especially when crafted by mother and daughter team. Rickety at best when teacher requires “authentic materials” to be used in construction. Structure whose construction results in mother-daughter friction when mother resorts to use of super glue and throws “authentic material” requirement to the wind.  Dwelling place which, when built by mother-daughter team, makes said team thankful they are not responsible for the construction of their own shelter.”  I think that just about sums up the chickee ordeal, so I’ll just leave it at that.

No, I really can’t leave it at that.  The minor detail I was trying to overlook, but just can’t is that COOKING a traditional Native American dish was an option.  A very viable, enjoyable, right up the mother’s alley kind of option. First,  I suggested we whip up a little Safki (a Seminole dish made of hominy and meat of some sort).  Then I cleverly pulled up a recipe for Safki and left it prominently displayed on laptop where child could see it.  Finally, I whined and begged to cook rather than build.  But I guess my apples don’t fall far from the tree and Medium Little One held her ground in much the same way the four year old had.  So chickee it was, chickee it is, and chickee it shall be!

With so many little artisans working away around here, I have had to keep them nourished with snackable goodness, The fact that they have downed two loaves and multiple muffin tins full of this pumpkin number attests to its success.

I started by throwing together the dry ingredients which include flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.


In another bowl, I tossed together some butter, sugar, and vegetable oil, and beat with an electric mixer.  Once that was fluffy, I tossed in some pumpkin puree, and  a couple of eggs.


Finally, I added the dry ingredients and a little water.

I dumped it all in a buttered loaf pan and put it to bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and ten minutes.


I am not joking about the quantities consumed of this stuff.  The bread is a little on the long side to bake so in later versions, I opted for mini muffin tins and took the baking time down to about 15 – 20 minutes.  It really is delicious, and if you are ever sipping tea and bemoaning the sad state of your chickee, it’s just the perfect accompaniment.

Here’s the complete recipe for Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread.

And here are some other fall pumpkin recipes  for your browsing leisure:

Honey Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping (
pumpkin recipes (
Scrumptious Pumpkin Recipes for Fall (
8 Must-Try Pumpkin Recipes (

Catching Up on the Backlog 3: Broiled Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce

It’s actually chilly!  I repeat . . . it’s actually chilly.  This statement might not mean much to many, but to this SoCal girl transplanted from Ohio, this is cause for much rejoicing.  A fall day that feels like fall.

I won’t go on about the weather any longer because we are technically in the “recipe, and only the recipe” series.  Let me just add that if it actually rains, as per the weather forecast, I may become giddy.

This new salmon recipe recently made me giddy because it was just SO easy.  To start with, I tossed together the citrus yogurt sauce.  A little Greek yogurt, some olive oil, some grated lime zest, fresh squeezed lime juice, some orange zest, a little fresh squeezed orange juice, a bit of salt, and some honey – that’s all this great sauce requires.

Citrus salmon - 1

I just whisked that all together, along with a little water, and put it aside while I broiled my salmon.

Citrus salmon - 2

For the salmon, I just rinsed it and patted it dry, placed it on a foil lined broiling pan, and sprinkled with salt and pepper.


I broiled the fish for about 7 minutes, then covered with some foil, and broiled another 7 minutes until it was cooked through.  I served with the citrus sauce, some roasted broccolini, brown rice, and roasted tomato slices,  and called it a day .


Here’s the complete Broiled Salmon with Citrus Yogurt Sauce recipe from Gourmet.

Catching Up on the Backlog 2: Scalloped Tomatoes

So I have to ask, do you feel as unfulfilled as I do?  OK, don’t answer that.

It’s just that this “recipe and nothing but the recipe”  thing isn’t quite working like I thought it would.  I’m not really able to put things up that quickly, AND I miss what we used to have together.  Again, if you’re OK with the new gig we have going on, just don’t hurt my feelings and keep it to yourself.

Seriously though, I think we’ll just power through one more post after this one and chalk it up to a lesson learned.  We will then return to our regular programming and I’ll get new things up as I can.  After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

But for today’s quickie, let’s just say I am overrun with tomatoes!  They come abundantly in my weekly produce box and they have been coming abundantly from our own little backyard garden.  I’ve done soups, BLTs galore, tartes, quiches, salads, and I’m just about tomato-ed out.  But this recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes added another dimension to our tomato life just when I thought I had covered every possible angle to this red headed beauty (yes, we’re partial to the red around here).  It’s really like a hot panzanella and very tasty.

I started with an assortment of red and yellow tomatoes (mostly yellow, really) and a big bunch of basil (also from our backyard mini garden).


Then I cubed up a little over half of a French baguette (yep, partial to the French stuff too!).


I heated some olive oil in a large skillet and tossed in the baguette.  I cooked over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the bread cubes were evenly browned.

After that I added in some garlic, the tomatoes, and a bit of sugar.   I cooked that mixture for about 5 minutes longer, removed from the heat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and tossed in the basil.


I poured the whole thing into a 9×13 baking dish and covered generously with Parmesan cheese.  I then drizzled a little olive oil the top.  I had an extra special olive oil keeper just for this very special drizzling step in the recipe!


I baked the whole deal at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes until the top was nice and bubbly and golden.


I served it up with some lemon garlic peas followed by a simple green salad. Quick, Easy, & Yummly.


Here’s the complete recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes, adapted from Food52.

Cathing Up on the Backlog: 1 – Butternut Squash, Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna

This just feels weird.  It’s almost as though we’ve decided to “take a break” from each other.  You know that awkward stage of a relationship, right?  I have so much I want to tell you, but we’re taking a break so I’m just going to keep it all inside.  So here it is . . . the recipe and just the recipe.  The first in my series I’m affectionately calling “Catching Up on the Backlog” – catchy, I know.

Even though my SoCal weather won’t cooperate, I am determined to remain delusional and cook as though it really is fall.  This lovely Butternut Squash, Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna was a little time consuming, but so worth the effort.  To start with I peeled, seeded, and chopped one medium butternut squash.  I then tossed it with a little olive oil and roasted it for about 25 minutes in a 450 degree oven.

Butternut squash lasagna - 3

While my squash was roasting, I brought some milk and dried rosemary to a simmer in a saucepan. I let it simmer for about 10 minutes and then strained the rosemary out.

Butternut squash lasagna - 5

Then, in a skillet I sauteed a bit of garlic in some butter.  I added in some flour, and cooked the roux for about 3 minutes.

Butternut squash lasagna - 4

After that, I poured in the heated milk and simmered for about 10 minutes, whisking the whole time,  until the sauce thickened.  Then I stirred in the roasted squash and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Then the assembling fun began.  I poured a little of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  I covered that with 3 lasagna noodles.  I spread more sauce over that and sprinkled with parmesan.  I repeated this layering one more time, beginning and ending with pasta.

Butternut squash lasagna - 9

With my electric mixer, I beat some heavy cream with some salt just until it formed soft peaks.  I spread that cream over the last pasta layer and then sprinkled the last of the parmesan over.

Butternut squash lasagna - 10

I had turned down my oven temp after roasting the squash.  I put the lasagna, covered loosely with foil,  in the 375 degree oven, and baked for about 30 minutes.  I removed the foil and baked another 10 minutes.  Then I let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Butternut squash lasagna - 11

An absolute perfect taste of fall!

Butternut squash lasagna - 12

Here’s the complete recipe for Butternut Squash , Rosemary & Garlic Lasagna.

Want to explore more squash recipes? Have fun browsing through these:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Mac & Cheese (
Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Glaze (
Ah-Mazing Forbidden Rice n Butternut Squash (
Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat’s Cheese Risotto (
Roasted Stuffed Butternut Squash (

The Art of Delegating . . . some things, anyway – Curried Butternut Squash & Green Beans over Quinoa

I feel like that little cartoon saying that you see pinned up in middle management offices sometimes – “The faster I go, the behinder I get”.  The reality of my everyday real life makes it so that I just can’t write as fast as I can cook.

I literally have recipes, creations, and pictures backing up like baby clothes in a laundry hamper.  And I know you mama readers can relate to that little analogy.  For those of you who have gracefully left the baby stage of parenthood, just take a moment and reflect on those days when you easily tallied in FOUR dirty outfits for one tiny creature.  You remember now, don’t you?  An endless parade of bibs, burp cloths, and buntings (what is a bunting really anyway?).  And everything so tiny that folding was like origami practice.  So much so that sometimes it was easier to just leave the mass of tininess in a big pile rather than even trying to fold and put away.

Well that’s how I’m feeling with my cooking these days.  I’m pumping out the meals and chronicling each creation in photos as I go,  but there they all sit in digital nowhereland on my laptop.

I manage to keep up with other stuff around the house by delegating to my troops.  Everyone pitches in and that’s what makes it all work.  I recently found a little gem called My Job Chart which I use to help keep everyone on track.  They LOVE it and clamor to the computer to log their helpfulness in exchange for points which they can spend, save or share.  It’s really an amazing motivator – I mean after all, it’s got technology AND money involved.  But there are some things, like this blog, that just can’t be delegated.  Teeth brushing would be another one of those “un-delegatable” items.  Is it really just me, or can anyone else relate to those days when you fall into bed at night after a trying day and just wish someone could take your head off, go brush your teeth for you, and then return your head?  OK, definitely just me, but now it’s out there and now you know the true level of my weirdness . . .  not to mention the extent of my fatigue on “certain” days.

So before I get any more “behinder”, I have decided to take a few days and give you the recipes, just the recipes (to be spoken in your best Joe Friday imitation), without any of my superfluous spiel.   Here’s the first one to get us started, and it’s an ORIGINAL creation (read – no recipe) that I just can’t wait to share.

To get started with making Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa, I first peeled and cubed one medium butternut squash.


I tossed the squash with a little olive oil and then roasted for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.  While that was roasting, I sliced up some green pepper and a little lemon grass.


I melted a little butter in a skillet and then added the green pepper and finely chopped lemongrass along with some red pepper flakes and curry powder.


I sauteed everything until the pepper was just tender.  Then I added in a little coconut milk and some Thai fish sauce.  At the same time, I had brought a pot of salt water to a boil and cooked up some green beans until they were just tender.  I added the green beans to the curry mixture and also tossed in the roasted squash.


I let things simmer just until everything was heated through.  I served it around a bed of quinoa and garnished with chopped cashews and some chopped fresh cilantro.


Quite a satisfying little dinner.  It also got approval all around the table – which isn’t always the case when I go free-wheeling and recipe-less.


Here’s the complete recipe for Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa.

Looking for more curry recipes?  Give these a gander.