Thursday, January 20, 2011

Use What You Have

It was pajama day at K-Picky's preschool today. It should have been easier to get ready then, right? I mean, she was ALREADY in her pajamas. Nope. She insisted on trying on different pairs to see which she felt were most school-worthy. And, she had to have to appropriately braided hair, headband, necklace, bracelet, and sparkly slippers. But, she also had to bring a back-up pair of sparkly shoes in her backpack in case she changed her mind. The girl can accessorize, which is funny because it's not one of my strengths. But, she loves going through her little ballerina jewelry box on the hunt for the perfect star ring or heart necklace to match her outfit. She gets a huge kick out of putting together outfits, using bits and pieces from a few different ones to make a whole new combination. Her eyes light up as she says, "mom, these new leggings from this outfit will go great with my pink sparkly skirt from my butterfly outfit!" And, usually she's right. She has, on occasion, been known to insist that her daddy change his outfit because she knew of another shirt in his closet that would go better with the slacks he was wearing. And, usually, she is right. Again. K-picky is the queen is using what she has in a whole new way. So, I took a lesson from her.

This is the butternut squash ravioli I made last week. This is as homemade as you can get, aside from the jarred sauce. Let's face it, after making the pasta and filling from scratch, I didn't have time or energy to make homemade sauce. Besides, Mrs. Ragu does it so much better than I would have anyway.

I started by cutting a butternut squash long-ways, and placed it face down on a baking sheet with half an inch of water. Meanwhile, I used a simple recipe of flour, water, salt, and olive oil to make the dough, and let it rest under a bowl while I mixed up the butternut squash puree. When the squash softened (after about 45 minutes at 400), I purreed it in my food processor, and mixed in onion, garlic, italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I ended up with a ton of this mixture, so I saved half in a freezer bag, sure that I would be able to slop it into something in the future.

Then, I enlisted Big Daddy, because who else would be so good at putting all that strapping muscle into rolling out the dough and cutting the raviolis, using a highly specialized and rare kitchen tool- a glass? He was a great sport, and we started an assembly line to make our crescent shaped raviolis. I simply filled each one with a spoonful of the mixture and folded them over, wetting the edges and pressing them together with my fingers.

Lastly, I boiled them (placing them ever-so-gently in the pot) for a few minutes, strained them, covered it all with sauce, and grated parmesan, and enjoyed this rich, scruptious, yet completely wholesome meal.

Big Daddy Bacon said it was a winner...even without bacon.

Tonight, (a week later), I slopped the tasty orange butternut squash goop into lasagna! I feel incredibly frugal and smart...and sneaky. That's because this was a totally vegetarian lasagna with layers of pasta, butternut squash mixture, finely chopped firm tofu chunks, marinara sauce, and grated italian cheeses. Big Daddy had no idea until he found a piece of tofu, halfway through with his lasagna. K-Picky and Wacky ate it without one complaint. They actually had a few compliments for the wise and tricky chef.

NO one can thwart the evil plan of the sneaky and frugal Veggie Mama! I used what I had in a whole new way.

Now if you will excuse me, K-Picky needs help finding her sparkly slippers. She misplaced them during her last wardrobe change.

And, on a totally different note, I read a great frugal healthy-eating tip today that I will pass on before I go. What do you do with those bananas when they begin to get spotted and brown? Throw them (peeled) into a freezer bag, and use them for smoothies in the future. Guess what's in my freezer, waiting for our morning smoothies?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forge Ahead!

Big Daddy Bacon ate an apple the other day for a snack! As you might have surmised, this is not a common occurrence. He usually reaches for chocolate (which he usually will not find in the house, so he usually gets in his car, and drives to the store for his snack.) But, I offered the kids an apple in lieu of a sugary snack, and he reached for one as well. I reached for something to hold onto, since I almost fell out of my chair in surprise.

Wacky ate all her asparagus last night at dinner. This was only the second time she ever tasted it, even though I frequently offer it when I have it on my plate. But, by day 5 of our new "you must try everything on your plate" rule, I think it finally sunk in for everyone. (You know who I mean, Daddy.) I put plates of turkey breasts, rice, and asparagus down in front of us them, and looked up to see what would happen. To my utter shock and dismay, Big Daddy suggested that they all try their asparagus at the same time. After a 1-2-3, they each took a bite. K-Picky didn't gag. Progress! Instead, she said. "it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, mom." And, then, she did the unthinkable, and TOOK ANOTHER BITE! MAJOR Progress!

So, feeling that I am on the verge of accomplishing the near impossible, I went out on a limb tonight. I found a recipe for a vegetarian Asian soup, and built a meal around it.

This soup was great, but the salad I served with it was not a hit, because of my choice of sesame ginger dressing. I won't make that mistake again. Big Daddy says he needs meat somewhere in the meal too. Maybe I should ease him into veggie meals...

I started by sauteing 2 tbsp crushed ginger and a tbsp chopped garlic in a tsp of canola oil. I then added some soy sauce and 4 c water to make the broth. (I added more soy to taste). I then added a chopped carrot, some shelled soy beans (edamame) , sliced mushrooms, chunks of firm tofu, and sliced snow peas. I boiled it all until the carrots softened, and served it, topped with sliced green, from my own garden.

Meanwhile, I used indentured servant labor to wash the lettuce. She may be a picky eater but she loves to help in the kitchen. At least someone likes to help. Wacky (being true to her name) rode her new bike through the kitchen, yelling, "I'm the dream fairy. Mommy, say 'hi, dream fairy'. Now, say 'bye, dream fairy' " Odd, you say? I agree. Oh, you mean odd that we let them ride bikes in the house? I agree. Why DO I let them ride bikes in the house??

OK, so we didn't lick our plates clean tonight, but we had fun together in the kitchen, and more importantly, we are making progress. It must be the magical wand the Dream Fairy kept waving in our direction.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hear Me Roar

I laid down the law last night. The new house rule is: Everyone must at least taste everything on his or her plate. A taste consists of a full size, fork-full bite. Not a lick. Not a sniff. Not a teensy tiny bite off the edge...A full on bite. I am Veggie Mama. Hear me roar. I rule with a nylon spatula. Be scared.

So, tonight I decided to make one of Big Daddy Bacon's favorites- enchiladas. I usually use ground turkey for these, and happened to have one in the freezer, which I had bought on sale around Thanksgiving. So, in true frugal fashion, I butchered it myself. I cut off both breasts, and froze those in a freezer bag. Then, I cut off the two leg quarters and froze those for another meal. Lastly, I cut off all the bits and pieces of leftovers all over the turkey and ground it in my food processor for part of tonight's meal.

I have heard it said that if we all had to butcher our own meat, we would all be vegetarians. This whole carcass cutting experience confirmed the truth in this statement. It is not glamorous or pretty to be elbow deep in a turkey. I will just say that.

So, half of our enchiladas were made with a ground turkey mixture, while the other half were made with a veggie mixture, which I thought was completely delicious.

For the meat mixture, I browned finely chopped bell peppers (and I mean finely, in order to disguise them for K Picky). I then added garlic salt, onion powder (only because I realized I was out of fresh onions), browned the half pound of ground turkey, and added enchilada sauce, and melted in a fist full of shredded Colby jack cheese. I did use canned sauce, but I chose a can with a list of identifiable ingredients. Nothing on the ingredient list began with X.

I filled the tortillas with a few spoons full of the mixture, rolled them, and laid them in a baking dish. Then, I went to work on my new vegetarian recipe.

For the mixture, I used frozen spinach, frozen squash from our Papa's organic garden, fresh mushrooms, and bell peppers. I sauteed all of this, then added a few spoons full of the same enchilada sauce, and melted in some Colby jack cheese. I filled whole wheat tortillas, and filled the rest of my baking dish.

For the last step, I covered the enchiladas with the remaining sauce in my can, and covered it all with another fistful of Colby jack, and baked at 400 degrees until the cheese bubbled.

And, VOILA! I chopped half of an avocado to top it off. These were, in the words of Dora the Explorer's backpack," Delicioso!"

Wacky liked the "green stuff" in the vegetarian ones. I may have told her that that green stuff would make her healthy and strong (totally true), AND make her hair grow beautifully long, just like Rapunzel's (questionable...).

K-Picky was not a fan of the green stuff, even though I may have used the same lie/promise to persuade no avail. But, she did follow the new house rule, and gave it a try.

We may have had a Godiva chocolate on the table, awaiting all who followed the new rule.

I am Veggie Mama. Hear me roar.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Veggie Mama + Big Daddy Bacon

Let me introduce you to my family.

I am Veggie Mama, a mostly-vegetarian, though I still eat dairy and eggs. My husband, Big Daddy Bacon is NOT mostly vegetarian. He is not even partly vegetarian. The man would eat bacon at every meal if he could. Yes, he knows it is not good for his arteries, and yes, I give him daily reminders of that. But, despite our difference in food preference, VM plus BDB= love. We have been married for 12 and a half years...about 12 years before I gave up meat for health reasons. We have two amazing daughters, K-Picky (Kaley) who is "closer to 5 than 4" (her words), and Wacky Snacky (Addie), who will be three next week.

K-Picky is our completely precious but picky eater, as you have probably surmised. Texture is a big deal to her, so if the food is mushy, or partially mushy, she would prefer not to eat it. (I use the word prefer because Veggie Mama feels strongly AGAINST preparing different meals for different members of the family- which is precisely where my dilemma began a few months ago. More about that in a minute.) She detests onions, corn, squash, raisins and bananas. Nevertheless, she tries new things with great reluctance, and mostly sticks to what she knows she likes, unless forced...

Wacky Snacky (our almost three year old) is our other completely precious daughter. She is also completely nutso. (I have noooooo idea where she gets it ;) Both of our girls have crazy vivid imaginations, but this one tells some whoppers, and I honestly think that she sometimes believes them. She shuns shoes, hairbows, and sometimes even clothes (though I am totally nipping that in the bud!) She marches to the beat of her own drum, and gives me a run for my money on a daily basis. Many people in my family say that is JUST like I was at her age. (I have NOOOO idea why they would say that ;). So, now you know where the Wacky comes from. But, she would also eat all day if we would let her. She is completely willing to try new things, and loves Greek yogurt, lettuce with fancy dressings, blue cheese and celery. Not at all like K Picky...

So, that's my wonderful little family of four. We are weird and fun, and just perfectly awesome if I do say so myself. But, we all have completely different eating styles. Hence, my challenge. I strive to feed my family good quality food, expose them to new flavors and textures, and do it all on a budget. It's not easy, but I like a challenge. I figure things out as I go, which my husband refers to as flying by the seat of my pants. But, it makes life so much more fun. And, in all honesty, I am sure that is one of the things he loves about me. (Don't make me mention your lists, charts, and goal sheets, Big Daddy...which I totally appreciate about you. One of us has to get us through life :)

Here, Big Daddy Bacon and I will catalog our family's healthy eating journey. I will try to convert him to vegetarianism (a HUGE feat, I am well aware), and we will both have fun in the kitchen with our family. We intend to try new recipes, flavors, and probably compromise a bit along the way in order to please everyone in our little family. So, here goes....