Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pirates, Milestones and Fashion

I feel all sorts of juxtaposed. Summer, fall, summer...fall? Tonight was a neighborhood block party, and despite being hot, hot, hot and at a "summer" event, I keep forgetting that school is in session (that reminds me, I need to pack R's lunch for tomorrow!).

The last few weeks have been full of fun things. For instance, we finally got around to visiting the Santa Maria (C. Columbus' ship, here in Columbus). While, of course, not a pirate ship, G was not going to be told otherwise. If you ever have the chance to visit the Santa Maria, I highly recommend it:

Then, right before school started, R "graduated" from COSI's Little Kid Space. I am not sure he knows yet that next time we go, while G runs around COSI's ginormous play area, he will be scorted to the Big Kid Hang-out room, but the graduation was a hoot and lots of fun:

After graduation, R started 1st grade, which so far, he loves:

I am hoping 1st grade includes a lesson on fashion since I fear R may have inherited his late Great Great Uncle Bob's sense of style:

If left to his own devices, the above is what R would have chosen to wear on his 1st day of 1st grade...quite the 1st impression, eh?

I'm off to pack R's lunch. I've been bantering around with some friends on FB for more school lunch ideas. I think a post is in the works...


Monday, August 30, 2010

Roasted Tomato Salsa, aka, "What the heck are we going to do with all these tomatoes? Salsa"

Have you looked at your calendar for the week? If you haven't, let me let you in on something: On Wednesday, September arrives.

Holy cow, it is nearly fall.

Of course, our local weather has not looked at its calendar, for it is supposed to be in the mid-90s this week. Thank goodness for the pool still being open and air conditioning.

But yes, fall is just around the corner, which means the start of my favorite sports season of the year: college football. Thursday a lot of Buckeye fans will be sweating their behinds off (projected weather: High 94, sunny) in the Horseshoe while cheering the Buckeyes on to victory over ("We Are!") Marshall. Me? I'll be watching the game in the comfort of our home, nibbling on my current fave, this salsa.

Like many of you, we have lots of tomatoes and peppers in our kitchen, courtesy of the summer bounty. I already whipped up and froze a huge batch of Sweet Pea Pizza Sauce, so I moved on to salsa this weekend. This salsa is super simple if you use your food processor. Special kid friendly bonus: it is not chunky, ie, you kids may actually eat it without picking out pieces of onion or tomato. It also works like a charm in Taco Roll-Ups.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

2-3 large tomatoes, washed and patted dry
1 medium onion, sliced
1-2 banana or jalapeno peppers (depends on how spicy you like your salsa)
2-3 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (you can use stems too)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

In a dry (read: no oil) pan over medium high heat, place the tomatoes, onion and peppers. Let the vegetables sit for several minutes until they start to blacken. Turn, repeat and turn again. Make sure all your vegetables have a good char on them without being burnt:

Core the tomato near the stem, removing just the very center of the tomato (it should slide out quite easily).

Place the vegetables and the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until it looks like this:

Makes about 2 cups.

With fresh tomatoes from your garden or a local farmers market, this will be the best salsa you have ever made!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Easy Homemade Falafel with Yogurt Tahini Sauce

I remember the first time I heard about falafel. It was my high school friend Amanda, and we were on a trip to Washington, DC. She mentioned that she wanted it for lunch, and I sort of responded with a "you want to eat fa-la-what?!"

Falafel. Basically, finely minced chickpeas, mixed with some really tasty spices and aromatics, transformed into a wonderfully tasty patty and pan fried. If you haven't made homemade falafel, you must give it a try. It is surprisingly super-easy to make, and a lot of kids (mine at the top of the list) gobble it up.

Side note: For those of you who are short on time, or want something you can prepare ahead of time (even in the morning before going to school or work), this recipe fits the bill. Also, while it is vegetarian, it will satisfy even carnivores.

Falafel with Yogurt Tahini Sauce

2 - 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
vegetable oil

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the flour. Pulse until the mixture is chopped (you may have to scrape the sides of the food processor a few times to help) into small pieces.

Add a few tablespoons of flour and pulse again. You want the mixture to resemble very coarse sand or small pebbles and to be able to be formed into small patties. If necessary, add a couple more tablespoons of flour.

Shape into 10-12 individual 2 inch wide disks (think slider burger size). If cooking immediately, set in the fridge for a few minutes or you can store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. They can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Heat a large skillet to high. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/4 inch high. Add the falafel patties and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip, repeat.

Serve in a pita with yogurt tahini sauce (see recipe below) or hummus, tzatziki or just lettuce and sliced tomatoes.


Serves 4, if you are lucky. R has a special penchant for falafel and can eat more than SPH and I combined when I serve it.

Yogurt Tahini Sauce:
1 cup fat free plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini*
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

*Tahini is sesame seed paste, similar to peanut butter but with a much more sublime taste. It can be pricey in certain stores, but you can store it in your refrigerator and it will last a long, long time. Except in our house as we use it to make our weekly hummus batch and now, this sauce, which, by the way, is insanely good for as simple as it is to make.

Enjoy All!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And the winners are...

Before I announce the winners, I read every one of your comments, and it was comforting to know that I am not the only one who: is busier than all get out, sometimes lacks motivation, has picky eaters and at times, an impossible daily schedule.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, as I hope to use them to inspire new recipes to come!

But without further adieu, the winners are...

30 Minutes on the Boys' Turf


Barbara #47 (comment read in part: "biggest challenge?
5pm often finds me out of energy and uninspired.")


Email me at sweetpeaeats@gmail.com with your address and I will pack up the Microplanes and get them on your way...


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Microplane Giveaway

I've said it before, I'll say it again:

My Microplane zester/grater is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It is perfect for grated cheeses, citrus fruit, fresh nutmeg, and more. It transforms a simple block of hard cheese, such as parmesan, into what the boys call "cheese snow!"

I love my Microplane tools and I want you to love them too. I am giving away 2 Microplane zester/graters to two Sweet Peas and Pumpkins readers:

To enter, leave a comment with your biggest weekday dinner challenge. I will choose two winners on Tuesday, August 24th at 9pm EST.

In the meantime, I am off to get ready for R's big back to school and 1st grade experience!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stuffed Chicken Nuggets

Ok, so here's a theory: you could stuff almost anything within a "chicken nugget" and kids will eat it.

At least that's my theory after our recent family reunion dinner that featured this amazing breaded stuffed chicken breast that both the boys inhaled. Mind you that the chicken was stuffed with copious amounts of spinach. Just look:

Want the recipe? Click here for my post today at familyeducation.com, the other site for which I blog.

Oh, and stay tuned, because later this week I have a giveaway for one my all time favorite kitchen tools!

Life is sweet (as I savor the 6-days-and-counting until R begins 1st grade),

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good Day Columbus Tips and Recipes

Good Morning Columbus!

Here are the tips for healthy school lunch success I shared this morning on Good Day Columbus:

*Get your child involved with the process:

*have your child help you develop a list of a handful of sure-fire main dish options he or she will be excited to see in their lunch box

*let them get creative and think outside the “lunchbox,” ie, leftovers, non-sandwich options such as hummus and vegetables/pita to dip, pasta salad, hard boiled eggs, or homemade cracker and cheese stacks

*communicate with them periodically to check if your child has new ideas, feedback, etc

*Make sure you child can open all the lunch containers you use

*For young children and first-time lunch packers, doing a trial run may help, especially if your school has a fairly limited amount of time to eat lunch

Remember food safety: pack hot items in appropriate containers and cold items with cold packs

*Packing the lunch the night before school can cut down on morning stress

*Planning lunches for the week can also help reduce last minute stress (ie, nighttime run to the grocery)

*Go Green!
Check out all the bento, reusable containers and thermos type options for school lunches

Recipe for Taco Roll-ups
(Serves 1, can easily by doubled or tripled)
2 ounces Neufchatel Cheese (aka, reduced fat cream cheese)
1 tablespoon mild salsa
1 whole wheat or flour tortilla
1 tablespoon sliced olives
1 tablespoon corn
1 tablespoon diced red pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons black beans, or alternatively, you can use your favorite toppings, such as chicken or other vegetables
1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese

Place the Neufchatel cheese in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 15 seconds to soften.
Add the salsa and mix well.

Spread the salsa mixture fully on top of the tortilla.
Sprinkle the olives, corn, red pepper, black beans and cheese on top of the tortilla, reserving a two inch space at one end, so when you roll up the tortilla the salsa mixture “seals” the tortilla.

Roll the tortilla up in a pinwheel fashion, and press to close firm.
With a serrated knife, gently slice the tortilla crosswise into ¾” slices.

Serves 1.

Homemade Hummus Recipe

Pasta Salad Recipes:

BLT Pasta Recipe

Tomato, Basil and Corn Tortellini

Greek Orzo Salad

Thanks for another Great Morning, GDC!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whole Grain Pancake Mix

(Special note for my Columbus peeps: I'm scheduled to be on Good Day Columbus again, this coming Monday morning around 8:30 to demonstrate some healthy school lunch box ideas.)

A couple weeks ago, I had a giveaway and asked you to leave a comment with a recipe request to enter to win. I feel like it was I who won, since the suggestions I received were brilliant (Amy C, I am still working on your request, I have a few ideas mulling, but I haven't forgotten about you!).

Rookie Cookie suggested that I come up with a bulk pancake mix, since I loved her Whole Grain Waffle Mix so much. This was especially brilliant since R would eat pancakes every morning if I let him and I always whimper a little bit inside each time he persistently requests them since they were time consuming to make. Note the emphasis on "were" since with this new pancake mix, they have become a relative breeze!

Whole Grain Pancake Mix

3 cups quick oats
3 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/3 cup baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup white sugar

Mix and store in an airtight container. Makes 12 "batches" of pancakes.

When you are ready to make the pancakes:

Whole Grain Pancakes

1 cup Whole Grain Pancake Mix
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vegetable oil.

In a small bowl, mix the milk, egg, vanilla and oil. Blend well and then combine with the pancaked mix.

Cook as you would any ole' pancake.

Makes about 12 individual 4 inch pancakes.

I just made a new batch of this mix and it is sitting in our cupboard, all ready for those busy school mornings!

Easy Pancakes? Sweet!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dessert Mystery Revealed!

Late Sunday I posted the picture below and asked you to guess the mystery ingredient:

Any minute last guesses?

Well, let's see...this recipe includes:



yellow squash (Congrats Michele and Nicole for guessing correctly!)

I searched the internet for ideas to help my friends Nicole and Camille use their surplus garden vegetables. The first idea I developed was my No Cook Italian Vegetable Salad, but I wanted to try a novel approach too.

I found several different renditions of yellow squash desserts or even breads (think zucchini bread), but came up with this recipe as a Sweet Pea original and couldn't have been happier. Imagine my inside glee, as my two boys, who are a tough sell on regular yellow squash, gobbled up this dessert and asked for seconds. Each of their pieces of dessert contained half of a medium squash!

Vanilla Squash Custard

1/3 cup water
4 medium squash, peeled and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup flour

Heat a medium saute pan to medium high heat and add the water and squash. Cook for 15 minutes or until the squash is mushy and the water has evaporated. Do not allow the squash to "brown."

(Alternatively, you can steam the squash or cook it in the microwave. The important thing here is that the squash is no longer firm)

While still hot, add the salt and butter, so the butter melts. Allow the squash to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a food processor or blender, add the squash, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Process until smooth.

Add the flour and stir until just blended.

Pour into a greased deep dish pie pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the middle is no longer jiggly.

Can be served warm, room temperature or cool.

Serves 8.

Prepare to get a little giddy when you see your kids eat their squash ravenously!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

...and we ate

We’re back from our last vacation of the summer, an extended weekend camping in the woods with my mom’s siblings and their families. The weather could not have been more perfect, and it was a weekend full of family, fun and lots and lots of food. LOTS of food. So the meals for this week are a bit of a detox after we feasting, grazed and nibbled our way through the weekend.

This year the star of the show was baby I. He’s 10 months old and just has got to be one of the sweetest, cutest children I have ever seen. See?:

When we weren’t all oogling over sweet I (side note: there are 8 grandchildren on this side of the family, 7 of which are boys!), we roasted some marshmallows:

Enjoyed the bouncing house that my aunt and uncle purchased a few years ago, much to the boys’ delight:

And ate. And ate. And ate:

Did I mention we ate?

And in response, our meals for the week:

Chicken Salad over Greens or in a Pita
Asian Pasta Salad
BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
Grilled Salmon, New Potatoes, Vegetable (whatever shows up in this week's CSA)
Greek Night--usually hummus, tzatziki, falafel, etc.

I leave you today with a picture of the recipe I’ll post tomorrow and ask you a question—

can you guess the very unconventional, but natural and healthful base of this recipe?

Any guesses? You'll get a big ole' gold star if you guess correctly!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lemon Glazed Green Beans

Vegetables are so fresh this time of year, the slightest touch can be used to make them super delicious. These lemon glazed green beans are a new Sweet Pea family favorite. A mere teaspoon of honey, a touch of lemon and olive oil transforms plain green beans into a yummy side dish.

Click here for the recipe on familyeducation.com.

Life is sweet, and so are these green beans-

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy August

I'm still coming to terms with the fact that it is already August. With all we've done this summer, June, July and August are flying by us at warp speed. Not that I am complaining, it is with a very thankful heart that I say this has been a great summer overall.

Chautauqua ended on a great note, with SPH meeting up with us on Friday after a long west coast work trip. Saturday morning I ran in the Old First Night Run at Chautauqua, an easy run that was fun and had the benefit on R, G, and SPH cheering me on loudly at the finish line. After a quick shower we were off to return home, after a stop at Lodi Station for a train ride and some shopping.

One thing that floors me every year about Chautauqua: there is no television there, and the boys never *once* asked me to watch television or play on the computer. R said to me, "I didn't even think about the TV!" The lake, bike riding, creek hiking and Childrens' School/Boys' Club kept them so wonderfully occupied, it was nice to have a vacation from modern technology too.

As we slip back into a routine, here are our meals for the week:

Grilled Teriyaki Fish, Corn on the Cob, Lemon Glazed Green Beans, Fresh Cherries
Layered Taco Salad
Tofu Stir-fry
Caramelized Onion and Feta Tart

Some great new recipes to try, hopefully some worth sharing!

Have a sweet week-