A Millie Favorite

A Millie Favorite

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pea Envy

One of my favorite things about spring is the pea. It is small, green and simple. It has a wonderful taste, somewhat sweet but also delicate. Peas can brighten up so many dishes, while also being a stand-alone veggie. When I was a kid, peas were always depicted on TV as a punishment veggie. "Young man, you better eat your peas if you want to go play later" is what I heard shouted by some over-bearing father figure.

Food can be a very mental experience. Negative associations with fruits and veggies are as common place in America as the fast food joints that litter our streets. The understated pea is no slouch though and it should not be condemned to the baby food jar in the back of the grocery store. No, it is time for the pea to come out, greet spring with the pride it should truly have.

Shelling peas are a great way for kids to get involved in the cooking and kitchen process. I remember my mother would have me shelling these peas in the spring and summer over our kitchen sink. I was so excited to do so, because it meant that my mother wanted me to help her prepare our dinner that night. I loved it when she invited me into the kitchen for help and I am sure that it would be a hit with your kids as well. 

Spring brings us this beautiful tiny green orb and with that, I would love to share with you my favorite pea inspired spring recipes. Trust me when I say that the pea will be your go to veggie after you try a few of these delicious dishes. What is also amazing about the pea, is that it is considered a "first food" for your baby. Any first food can not be a bad thing for the rest of the family. Enjoy the new season, the warm air, getting outside and of course the food that comes with the changing of the season. Lighter, brighter and of course fabulous! 


Pea and mint baby food
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • fresh mint finely chopped  
Steam the peas until really tender. In the last 3-5 minutes of steaming, add the chopped mint. In a food processor combine the two with a little bit of water until blended well enough for a baby to eat. For older babies, add a little lemon zest for brightness. 

Curry peas and rice 
  • 1 cup of jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen peas
  • 1tsp of curry powder
  • pinch of salt 
  • lemon zest 
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of paprika for older kids and adults
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil then add the rice. Reduce heat and give one big stir to the rice and then let sit until done. When the rice is done, fluff in a bowl and add the other ingredients. It is really good with a fillet of salmon.

Pea and feta cheese salad
  • One bag of washed and dried romaine lettuce 
  • 1/2 cup of peas 
  • four ounces of feta cubed or crumbled 
  • pecan or vegetable oil 
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon juice
Mix the lettuce in the bowl with oil and lemon juice before adding the peas and feta. When the lettuce if fully coated with the oil and lemon, then add the peas and feta and toss again, serve. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brown vs the Brain

There was a study that I once read about how people respond to color. The brighter the color of food or the more colors that are on a plate, the more responsive you are to eating it. I know with my daughter we name the colors on her plate and I always try to have three or more different colored foods represented on her plate.

That same study went on to say that there are millions of dollars being spent on research of colors and the American pallet.There are major snack food corporations that will spend this money on trying to trick us into eating processed junk! That we as consumers are buying things like bright orange colored chip bags because of how it is presented on the outside. It is the same brain function. However, what we are eating inside that bag is usually a color not really found in nature or some shade of brown. How did this happen to us? We would rather eat processed snacks, frozen dinners and purple-colored sodas then what is a true rainbow of food found in nature. Not to be on my giant soap box here, but this seems a wee bit criminal to me.

Fast food is not really any different in the color scheme of things. All of the fast food joints are brightly colored and yet most of what is on their menus are shades of brown. It is amazing how the human brain works and our trigger responses to color and its association with food.

What scares me the most is how our children would rather eat a big plate of brown processed foods then a rainbow of fruits and veggies. It is almost like they have been presented wrong this entire time. Ask any child what their favorite color is and I guarantee they will not say brown.

Here is a trick to get your child to eat something new or something they might not like. Ask them what their favorite color is and see if you can't match a fruit or veggie to it. Explore where that food comes from, make it an adventure for not only their stomach but their minds as well. I find that the way we have been presenting fruits, veggies and whole grains for the past fifty years feels more like a punishment than a privilege. Eating these good foods are not meant to be what you have to do in order to watch TV later, it should be something that we all anticipate with great joy.

In the spirit of colorful eating, I would like to share with you my mother's recipe for kale chips. Kale is super nutritious and is considered a "super food" for your body. You can usually get a big bag of kale at the farmers market and is actually one of the more inexpensive things to buy at the grocery store. I have been told that it is also a great veggie to start a garden with, super easy to plant grow and nurture. So, why not make this amazing and delicious green snack for your family tonight? Put in a little bag for your kids lunch tomorrow. Everyone will beg you for more! And the best part of all, is it costs very very very little to make several batches of kale chips. You are not only feeding your family right, but you are saving money as well. YAY!


Kale Chips: 

Preheat oven to 275F (low heat)

  • rinse kale if fresh or just take out of bag
  • tear large pieces of the green leafs and place in a big bowl
  • drizzle olive oil over the leaves coating all the leaves generously
  • sprinkle just a pinch of sea salt over the coated leafs. (kale soaks in salt very easily, so be gentle)
  • Place on baking sheet and put in the oven
  • cook until crispy which is about 20-22 minutes
  • put into bowl and enjoy

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Food co-op follow up

One of the things that can be the most frustrating when you are a parent (new or seasoned) can be the lack of kid-friendly grown up things to do. I am not talking about going to Chick-fil-a on Thursday nights for kids night. (Which by the way sounds awful and must be avoided) No, I am talking about going out and having a glass of wine and adult conversation over good food, while the little ones also enjoy food and the company of other kids. Sounds hard to do right? Well, I am happy to report that my food co op/dinner share idea that I had a few weeks back has become just that. 

When I wrote about the food co-op idea a few weeks ago, I had no idea that it would take off so fast. There have now been four official dinners and each week gets better and better. Here is the deal:

There are now officially 16 members of the group. Some have kids, some are single, some are married without kids or married with grown kids. There are all types, but with one thing in common, love of good food. Each week there is a different theme and everyone brings enough food to eat that night and to take home for left overs for the week. The kids run around with fruit in their hands, while the adults eat and discuss current topics, recipes and sometimes graphic details of labor. Hey, you know we have two pregnant women involved, that topic is bound to come up! We meet at a different persons' house on Tuesday nights with our dishes and recipes in hand. Some people are seasoned cooks and some people are new to it. However, everyone's food is delicious and welcomed. What has been the best part of it all, is watching people who normally don't cook, push themselves and really make amazing dishes happen. 

The kids are being exposed to new foods, new people and good conversation. Not just shoved in a back room with dvd's. No, the children are welcomed to eat right along side the adults. This to me is my favorite part. 

This has been a rough few years in our economy. Maybe a couple of years ago, going out to dinner a couple of nights a week was the norm. Maybe you can still do that, but if there is one thing that I have learned in these tough times, money and possessions are fluid, people and good memories are not. This Tuesday night dinner share is so much more than just getting together over food. It pushes us to be creative, to actually interact with each other, to welcome people into our homes and to really create memories with our children and friends. 

I encourage people to start their own dinner share. It is a great way to learn new recipes, have a midweek outing, share good conversation with friends and family and the most important part teach your kids the joy of cooking and socialization. And if your kids are old enough, have them create dishes on their own. See what their little creative minds can come up with. 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Working as a professional campaign staffer means you live in your car. I have had the privilege of working in several different states for several different candidates and cause issues. I logged over 90,000 miles on my brand new VW Beetle because of my job. It was the part that I loved the most. Getting in my car and taking off for a new campaign was always exciting. This part of my job most certainly carried over to my daughter. She loves road trips and so far has visited 10 states and is not even two yet!

Well what do you when you are about to hit the road and you are traveling with a toddler or small child? America’s highways and interstates are littered with fast food joints, bad gas station food and chain restaurants. There are so few options for colorful and nutritious road trip food.

I will be the first to admit, that while on a road trip, it is almost like your body cries out for pork rinds and RC cola while listening to your favorite bad 80’s rock station. But if you have ever traveled with a small child, the last thing you want is an upset stomach or worse. If your child does not eat fast food regularly or drink sodas, giving them such treats in a car situation can actually be worse than at home. With the motion of the car and the confined space of the back seat and straps of the car seat, you are asking for a terrible situation to arise.

When I take Millie on our many adventures, I pack the car full of good snacks and lunches that would fill the cravings for the adults, while satisfying the little one. Here are some of my road trip food ideas. Cheers!

  • Champagne Grapes (They are smaller than regular grapes and not a chocking hazard like regular grapes)
  • Colby Jack or Cheddar Cheese cubes
  • Orange slices (Not whole oranges. You do not want to deal with the peal.)
  • Cucumber and dill sauce pita wraps
  • Fancy club soda with a flavor. Like lime, orange, grapefruit or lemon. No sugar, no sodium, no calories. And the bubbles fill your stomach up to settle it on the road.
  • Pita chips
  • Blueberries
  • Snap peas
  • Green beans
  • Dried fruit or veggies
  • Carrot sticks
  • Fruit bars

All of these wonderful snacks are easy for a toddler to chew on and will fill the craving of anyone in the car, no matter what their age. I promise, you will feel much better as well when you arrive at your destination. You will not have the bloat and upset stomach of fast food. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Noodle Love

One of my favorite memories of food exploration with Millie was the day I took her to a local micro-brewery to get some lunch. Of course I refrained from having her sit at the bar and ordering a pint. However, it was a special lunch out for the both of us.

I did not bring her smashed peas and apples, nor did I not give her food off my plate. No, this would be the first time I ordered her something special on her own plate, brought out to her like a big kid. The meal? Penne pasta with a side of fruit, yum!

Fruit of course had been a big part of Millie’s diet for a few months by that point, but pasta was a brand new thing. I did ask that the tube-shaped noodle come out naked. No sauce, no cheese, no salt…simple. They presented the plate to my daughter and she went after that pasta as if she was born in Italy to a family of pasta makers! She ate it and was so happy the entire time. It was almost like she knew that she had graduated to something more grown up. And that made me smile.

I love that memory because of so many reasons. The obvious being that it was a next step in her development. The less obvious was that it was just the two of us. There was no fanfare, no grandparent or dad there to cheer her on. It was simple, understated and such a lovely way to see my child explore new food.

In honor of that special memory, I would like to share with you my favorite toddler-friendly pasta recipes. Cheers!

Spaghetti with sweet pea sauce

  • Spaghetti noodles
  • Frozen or fresh sweet peas
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano

Bring pot of water to boil, don’t forget to add a pinch of salt and a tsp of olive oil to the water to prevent noodles sticking to each other. When the water is at a boil, put the noodles in for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and place back into same pot.

In your food processor, place cooked peas in and start to process. While you are doing this, slowly drizzle olive oil in to make a beautiful green sauce.

Finally add the sweet pea sauce to the cooked pasta and sprinkle oregano over the top. Serve and enjoy.

Penne with roasted butternut squash

  • Penne noodles
  • One small/medium butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon

Same as above for the noodles

Butternut squash: First, if you can get this at the farmers market, try and do so. Squash is easy to come by and is really inexpensive. A butternut squash is a “first food” and if you have an infant starting off, you can separate the pasta from the squash and serve everyone.

Heat your oven to 350F. Cover the squash with tinfoil and place on baking sheet. Let cook for about 30 minutes or until the skin of the squash has turned a bit darker. You do this, so you can cut the tough squash. It can be really difficult to cube a raw butternut squash. After you have taken it out of the oven, take a vegetable peeler and peal away the rind. Then cut in half and take out the seeds, which you can roast and snack on later. Then cube and place back on baking sheet with olive oil, salt/pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook for another 20 minutes at same temp or until really soft. Remember you are feeding a toddler. J

When the squash if fully cooked, then cube into bite size pieces and place in with penne pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and a little Italian cheese of your choice. Serve and enjoy!