Friday, August 29, 2008

Heading out

We're off for one more summer visit, this time to see SPH's family. We'll be visiting for a week and then back home and R starts his last year of preschool.

Happy Labor Day everyone...


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food Origins

R, G and I recently went to the petting zoo area at the Columbus Zoo. They learned all about the animals that produce mommy's favorite kind of cheese.

G, with his, "these goats sure do stink!" face:

G, having made peace with the smell, enjoys the goats' antics:
R, thankfully using the provided combs for their intended use, not for his own hair, as other children were doing:
A random zoo picture of R thrown in for good measure:

And yes, I dressed them in matching orange shirts a la, J&K+8. It was a brilliant idea...G is a fast mover and I could find them both in a flash. Highly recommend it for busy public outings.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Very rarely does a commercial make me feel ill. Sure, there are a *lot* of bad commercials, but thanks to Tivo/DVR magic, I usually don't endure commercial breaks. But have you seen this one?

Mom, daughter in a grocery store, shopping:

Mom grabs broccoli. Daughter, "I don't like broccoli!" Mom grabs chicken. Daughter, "I don't like chicken!" Mom grabs pediasure shake. Daughter, no response, Mom smilesUgh.

I am sure this little girl is sweet and all, but the way she says "chicken" makes my skin crawl.

Am I the only one?


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vegetable Latkes

We love potato pancakes, aka latkes. This recipe we developed recently turned out super yummy and had some extra vegetables thrown in to the mix.

Vegetable Latkes

3-4 T olive oil
1 small onion, shredded
1 small potato, shredded
1 small sweet potato, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 - 1 c flour (we use whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients *except* the olive oil. Add more flour if necessary, to make a consistency thicker than pancake batter, but not firm.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Place a tablespoon of oil in the pan and allow to heat. Drop 2 T of the mixture in circles in pan. Cook about 4-5 minutes, and flip. Repeat, adding oil as necessary.

This recipe makes a lot, but you can half it easily.


Monday, August 25, 2008

I've been wondering

What's your term of endearment for your little ones? I want a roll call... Obviously, you know mine. :)

Tell me yours.

Our meals for the week:

Bay Scallop Pasta and Corn on the Cob
Sweet Pea Pizza Sauce Pizza
Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas
Cobb Salad


Friday, August 22, 2008


So many people ask me, "when do you have the time to do this?" Whether talking about the cooking, recipe testing, or blogging, I answer, "I'm not sure, I just do."

Cooking is a hobby, something I do to relax, so I make the often turns into a whirlwind when I am trying to beat the clock for dinner, but usually it's a joy.

To help though, I often end up getting the boys to do things like this:

It is one of many tricks up my sleeve to entertain them while I finish dinner. Speaking of tricks, G has developed a trick of his own for drinking out of his straw cups:

He has a hard time remembering that when you drink from straw cups, the cup has to stay up, so he has resorted to this G-original method.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Out of the mouth of a Sweet Pea

The scene: R is in the basement with me, acting bored. I am trying to check my email.

SPC: "Why don't you set up your train tracks"

R: "But I need you to help me! You need to play with me."

SPC: "R, I have had a lot of fun playing with you today, but now mommy needs some time to work on her computer."

R: "Weellllllll, *I* need some time to work on my poo-poo." (Exits the room, heads to the potty).

This is an actual conversation that took place about 2 (no pun intended) minutes ago. I thought twice about posting this, but then thought, what the heck?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The best things in life are so simple

Organic tomatoes of different varieties and fresh basil, all from our garden...drizzled with olive oil, balsamic, S&P.

Can't you just taste it?

Now if I can just figure out what to do with the nearly 2 dozen and counting other tomatoes that were ripe when we got back from Chautauqua...anyone out there have a good canning recipe?

If not, I am making copious amounts of our Sweet Pea Pizza Sauce and freezing it for a rainy, or cold weather day.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Waffle rhymes with...

R is all about rhyming these days, so how apropos that my very first attempt at homemade belgian waffles (the iron was a gift from my birthday) turned out so, well, awful.

I didn't take the advice to "season well with oil," I mean, I sprayed it with some canola oil, but obviously, it just wasn't enough:
Down, but not out, I tried again and again. I think this recipe the Sweet Peas and I developed is worthy of posting. It is a simple recipe (many you find call for whipping of egg whites, etc) and jam-packed with good stuff, hence the name:

Whole Lotta Good Stuff Waffles

Dry Ingredients:
1 ¼ c whole wheat (or, we use 1 c ww flour, ¼ c ground flaxseed)
¾ c flour
3 T brown sugar
2 t baking powder
½ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 ripe mashed bananas (or, one banana and ½ a cooked mashed sweet potato)
1 egg
2 egg whites
3 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
1 ½ c milk

Optional mix-ins: blueberries, walnuts, raisins, other fruit, even *bacon*

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients, stirring to ensure everything is incorporated. In a medium bowl, mix the banana (or banana and sweet potato) and eggs, wisking well. Add additional wet ingredients until well blended. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring only until just blended (over mixing will make your waffles tough).

In a preheated (and well oiled!) waffle iron, pour about half the amount of waffle batter you usually do…add any mix-ins, then pour the remaining amount of batter to cover.

Cook according to your waffle iron’s instructions.

This morning we did R's with walnuts, G's with blueberries. I have to say, R's tasted pretty darn good, just like banana bread.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Back in the saddle, er, kitchen again...

It is good to be back. The week at Chautauqua was fun, as relaxing as any vacation with little ones may be, and a wonderful chance to disconnect from our regular routine. G learning to eat corn *on* the cob, and loving it!

Lots of great memories were made, including R’s very first (and second) sailing adventures, lots of wonderful musical performances and wonderful speakers all talking about one of my favorite things: food.

My very favorite speaker of the week was Dr. Marion Nestle of NYU--she was a brilliant speaker and reaffirmed everything I believe about healthy eating, the importance of eating natural, whole foods and how un-healthy processed food is for us.

Speakers during the week also included Michael Ruhlman, author of the French Laundry Cookbook, Drew Dieporent, owner many NYC restaurants and Tim & Nina Zagat.

Some things I gleaned:

--the highest use of carbon fuels in transporting foods is not international or cross-country shipping, but the aggregate use of consumers taking food from the store to their home.

--“food is a metaphor for life,” Michael Ruhlman, author of the French Laundry Cookbook

--“restaurants are becoming more about mood than the food,” Drew Nieporent, owner of NOBU, Rubicon, Crush, etc in NYC

--Tim and Nina Zagat started their world famous restaurant ratings as a hobby…oh to do something so cool as their job!

--I heard stories about farm factories and conventional mass animal farming that made the hairs on my arms stand up.

All of the lectures and Q&A took place in the outdoor amphitheater, so I just popped G in the stroller and circled the whole time. Physical and Mental exercise, all rolled up in one!

After all this enlightenment, I’m off to do another load of laundry and change a diaper...

But first, our meals for the week:

Turkey Brats on the grill, Sauteed Broccoli, Tomato-basil salad, Fresh Pineapple
Chinese New Year Lettuce Wraps
Pasta Carbonara
Grilled Tofu Sesame Spinach Salad
Pork Carnitas


Monday, August 11, 2008

Chautauqua Bound

R, G, and I are here for the week. SPH will come up later this week, and we'll all be back next week. If you have never heard of Chautauqua, it is a really cool place. You should read the "Miscellaneous Facts" on this page. My aunt and uncle run an Inn on the grounds and I have gone there most years since I was 3. R is going to the same "Children's School" that I went to when I was young.

The cool thing? Each week of programming has a theme an topic that envelopes all the speakers, events and happenings. The theme this week is What's for Dinner?: Food and Politics in the 21st Century. Right up my alley for sure.

Speaking of politics, the new pastor of Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago (aka, Barack Obama's former church) who took over for Pastor Jeremiah Wright is the religious speaker for the week. Interesting...

Anyway, I will see you in the blogosphere next week,

Friday, August 8, 2008

FNB--Oven Fries

Ahhh...oven fries. This recipe has been developed over many years, and many tries at reaching oven fry nirvana. For something seemingly so simple in concept, there have been a lot of missteps in my quest to make a decent oven fry.

We made oven fries for lunch today to test out my recipe before I posted it this afternoon. R said to me, "we're having dinner for lunch?" Guess I have never made these for lunch before, only for dinner. Then he said, "can we have breakfast for dinner?" (his favorite). We'll see...

These oven fries are the closest I have been able to come to the real deal. I add some seasoning, to add a smoky/fried nuance and enhance the flavor. When we make these fries, I often use half sweet potatoes, half russet potatoes. I prefer the balance of flavors between the sweetness of the sweet potato and the paprika and chili powder in the seasoning mix.

A couple hints:

--make sure you give these fries their space on the tray. Do not overlap the fries--give them plenty of room, otherwise when they are cooking there is too much steam in too closet of an area and they get mushy. Use two trays if you must.
--about 20 minutes into the cooking time, quickly take the tray out of the oven and, using a sturdy metal spatula, give them a quick flip.
--you can use a mandoline to help make the fries, but honestly, I think the fries need to be a wee bit thinner than the "julienne" on our OXO Mandoline. I do them about 1/4 inch wide, no bigger.

Real Deal Oven Fries

1 large sweet potato
1 large russet potato
2 T vegetable oil
1 t paprika
1/2 t garlic
1/2 t chili powder
1/4 t oregano
1/4 t each salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, cut a very thin slice off the bottom of the potato so it doesn't roll:Then cut off 1/4" slices and slice into julienned 1/4" slices:Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and spices:
Toss well, making sure to coat evenly. Then spread out evenly and with space between the fries and bake in a 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, turning once at about 20 minutes.
So there you have it. Hopefully a recipe that will give you success with your homemade oven fries!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A new twist on an old favorite

R would eat pizza for dinner every night if we let him. When I am making out the weekly menu and grocery list I sometimes ask him what he wants for dinner. 9 times out of 10 the answer is: pizza!

I had originally planned to do our traditional grilled pizza tonight. Then my cousin Melissa gave me a great idea to roll the it up and make it a "bread." So we took our Sweet Pea Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe and used Sweet Pea Pizza Sauce (I upped the carrots this time and on one was the wiser...still meaning to try fearlesschef's idea to also add some eggplant). We rolled out the dough in long rectangles:

Then added sauce, leaving space to seal the bread at the end:Topped it with steamed spinach, mushrooms, olives and cheese:Rolled it up, sealing it with a coat of water on the roll and the flap that sealed over the dough, and baked it at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Wonderfully good and different! Bonus: R loved the idea of having "bread" for dinner and dipped it in the extra sauce. SPH loved it too, I did two breads, one with only veggies and one with a bit of crumbled bacon (about 2 slices on the whole dough) and a sprinkle of blue cheese.
Sweet eats indeed-

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

bot...interesting name, interesting drink

This weekend at my local grocery they were giving out samples of bot. A new enhanced water geared toward kids, R *loved* him some bot when he tasted it.

There are four flavors lemon, berry, grape and orange. R declared lemon and berry to be his favorites, and since they were on sale, we picked up some. It was a hit.

Here's my take: if your kids are soda or juice box-heads, then bot might be just the thing to break them of their habit. It has 75% less sugar than juice and is all natural. Like Vitamin Water, Antioxidant Water, etc. it has been fortified with vitamins, albeit at lower amounts since bot is for kids.

However, if you don't have a sugar swiller on your hands, then I would take a pass. It is $1.29 (non-sale price) for a 12 oz bottle! At the end of the day, if you want to have your kids get a mere 10% of their B vitamins (the RDA bot contains of B3, B5, B6 and B12), I am sure popping their vitamin or upping things like potatoes or bananas that contain vitamin B will help them cover their bases.

Just my two cents-

Monday, August 4, 2008

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Taking a cue from Slacker Mama, the Sweet Pea family headed out to see the Columbus Clippers yesterday. Thanks for the great idea Slacker! Anyone want to guess how many innings we made it through with G & R? Drumroll please...8, yes 8 innings.They both seemed to really enjoy it. G kept saying "ball! ball!" and R had fun following the mascots around the stadium (G is somewhat weary of any large character...on Saturday we were at our local water park and Elmo came for a birthday. Despite Elmo being G's #1 guy, he screamed when we got too close.)

The weather was perfect, the game was fun and the cool thing is that the Clippers are the AAA squad for the Washington Nationals, our former hometown team. They played the AAA team for the Reds and ended up losing a heartbreaker, 2-1.
In honor of our trip to Cooper Stadium, I penned this song:

"Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out with my boys!
Bring the SPF and the Matchbox Cars, God help us if we don't bring some toys.
We'll it's root, root, root for our new team, gosh I hope they aren't lame!
For it's one, two, three, a "time out!" if you're bad at the ball game!"

Ok, so a songwriter I am not.

After feasting on ballpark food last night, our meals for the week will begin with:

Grilled Sockeye Salmon, Spinach Salad and Grilled Zucchini
Baked Burritos
Grilled Pizza (yeah, I know, we have it about every week, but it is soooo good)
Greek Chicken Burgers

Have a sweet week,

Friday, August 1, 2008

Inaugural "Make it Better" Recipe

Thanks for the emails and suggestions for "Make it Better" recipes. I am testing out recipes in my copious free time (smile) so don't think I have forgotten your suggestions...I just want to make sure anything I develop as a recipe is more than just "Make it Mediocre."

So, here comes my first crack...

I love pudding, but not all the ingredients in a typical pudding instant mix. I know, I know, sometimes a girl just has to let loose, get crazy and use a mix...but I have always wondered if I could make it better.

I think I nailed it.

This recipe can be used for chocolate pudding, dark chocolate pudding or plain Jane vanilla. It is relatively simple, all natural and low, low fat (ok, the dark chocolate has some added fat, but bonus! it also has good-for-you antioxidants).

Sweet Pea Chocolate Pudding

3/4 c evaporated skim milk
3 3/4 c skim milk
3/4 c sugar
5 T cornstarch
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients *except* vanilla in a heavy saucepan. Heat to medium high heat, and stir with a whisk. Be sure to continue stirring so nothing settles to the bottom of the pan and burns. Bring the mixture to bowl, ask you are stirring constantly, and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer, simmer 1 minute or until the mixture thickens a bit.

Remove from heat, mix in the vanilla and let cool a bit, pour into a bowl and cover the top with wax paper or saran wrap (this prevents it from getting a "skin"). Refrigerate for a couple hours or until set.

**The above recipe is fat free. To make it even more delicious and down-right decadent, take a 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar like this one- and break it into pieces. Taste a couple pieces (hey, we are big into quality control in the Sweet Pea home) and throw the rest into the pudding immediately after you add the vanilla and stir until is melts and is incorporated.

**For you vanilla fans out there, omit the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla to 1 T.

Have a sweet, sweet weekend,