picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

Love asparagus? Love a meal that’s ready in less than half an hour?

Then you’ve come (virtually) to the right place!

After a super-busy afternoon of shopping for plants (more on that in a future gardening post) and visiting the animals at our local farmers market/petting zoo, we arrived home hungry and with not very much food in the house, and with what I had in the fridge I was inspired to create this:

Asparagus fritatta

25-minute asparagus frittata

You will need:

  • a large oven-safe skillet or frying pan (I prefer non-stick)
  • a pot of boiling water to blanch asparagus
  • 1/2 pound fresh (preferably local!) asparagus
  • 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • oil or cooking spray for pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Boil water and blanch 1/2 pound of asparagus to your preferred tenderness, then cool quickly with cold water. (Full disclosure: I cooked the whole pound and ate half of it while cooking the frittata. It was delicious, but there were consequences.)

2. Mix eggs, ham, milk, chives, and salt and pepper in a bowl while preheating oiled pan. Turn broiler to high.

3. Pour egg mixture into preheated pan and arrange asparagus spears on top.* Cook for 2-3 minutes on top of stove, then transfer to oven. Cook on middle rack (10-12 inches from the broiler) for about 10 minutes, until middle is set and top is nicely browned.

4. Cut into wedges, serve, and enjoy!

Molly ate her frittata with relish. Figuratively. Not literally, because that would be really gross. Although she would probably love it; we are talking about a kid who dips dill pickles in vanilla yoghurt.

Molly enjoying

Molly enjoying her frittata with figurative relish.
©PicklesINK 2013

Ian was also a fan, although you can’t really tell from his expression. He is actually enjoying the frittata, just not the act of getting his picture taken. I’m pretty sure he took up photography just to make sure he could always be the one behind the camera.

Everyone enjoying

Ian, Ben, and Molly at the dinner table.
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben, as is often the case, took some time to warm up to the idea:

“What’s for dinner?”

“Asparagus frittata!”

“I don’t like that!”

“Yes, you do.”

“No I don’t! What’s in it?”

“All things you like. Eggs, ham, asparagus.”

“I don’t like asparagus!”

“You like ham and eggs.”

“I want JUST eggs! Is it like scrambled eggs?”

“Yes.”

“BUT I don’t LIKE scrambled eggs [damnit, it was a trick question!]! I only like boiled eggs!”

“You like frittata. It’s eggs with ham and asparagus in it.”

“I don’t like them IN it! Can I have the asparagus BESIDE it?”

“Fine.”

“And the ham beside it?”

“NO!”

“OOOOHHHHHHHHH!!! BUT I don’t WANT it IN it!!”

“YOU’LL LIKE IT!”

“NO I WON’T! I WON’T LIKE IT AND I’M NOT GOING TO EAT IT!!”

*10 minutes later*

“Mmmm….this is really good. I like this dinner. Actually, mommy, I LOVE this diner!”

Me: *headdesk*

Ben enjoying

Ben LOVING his ham frittata with asparagus, as requested, beside it.
©PicklesINK 2013

~ karyn

*You could also chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces before blanching and mix them with the rest of the ingredients. The full spears can get a little stringy when broiled and Molly found them hard to chew, so I will probably do that next time. It’s much prettier with the whole spears though!

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A ham-tastic series of recipes

My family often eats ham on New Year’s Eve. This year we were up at the chalet and I was in charge of groceries so I (deliberately) went a little overboard and got an enormous bone-in, spiral cut, cooked ham.

For the dinner itself, I heated the ham in the oven and served it with two salads, a green salad with diced apple and celery and vinaigrette, and a chopped cherry tomato and avocado salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

For dessert I made Dump Cake, which is a classic kid-chef-friendly recipe. I’ve seen the recipe a few places with a few variations (ie. adding nuts or chocolate chips), but the basic instructions are: Dump into a baking pan, in this order (without stirring, but try to spread the layers evenly), 1 can undrained crushed pineapple, 1 can fruit pie filling (I used strawberry rhubarb), and 1 box yellow cake mix; top with 2 sticks of butter each cut into 12 slices; and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. It comes out as more of a cobbler than a cake and is absolutely delicious, hot or cold.

When I came home, I had about 2/3 of the ham, including the bone, left, and I have made making the most (so to speak) of the leftovers, and let me tell you, they have been tasting souperheheheh.

I started by cutting the ham off the bone as closely as I could and dicing it. I used about half of that ham to make my first soup, ham, leek, and potato. Sadly, I was engrossed in the process and forgot to take pictures of that one. Please take my word for it – it looked a-FREAKING-mazing.

Ham, Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients (all amounts are VERY approximate)

  • 3 cups diced cooked ham
  • 3 cups 1/2″ cubed Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3 stalks leeks, finely chopped and WELL rinsed
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • combination of about 1/3 milk to 2/3 water to just cover ham and vegetables

Cook the leeks and ham in a little bit of oil in large pot until leeks are soft and slightly browned. Dump everything else into the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Leave it alone for an hour or so. Come back and add some cream and a cornstarch slurry if you like a thick soup. Serve with a really lovely artisanal bread, preferably potato scallion or whole garlic clove or the like.

While that soup was simmering, I used a little bit of the remaining diced ham to make dinner for the kids – “Dora’s Empanadas” from the Dora and Diego Let’s Cook cookbook that Molly got for Christmas from her cousins. Basically, you make a filling out of diced stuff (I used carrots, peas, ham, and grated cheese), cut circles of of refrigerated pre-made pie crust, fill, fold over pastry and seal edges, and bake for 12-14 minutes at 400°F. I put the rest of the diced ham in a large freezer bag and froze it.

Finally, I made ham stock: I put the ham-bone in a large pot, added about a handful each of roughly chopped carrot, onion, and celery and a handful of bay leaves and peppercorns, filled the pot with water, turned on the heat and left it all to simmer for hours and hours and hours. After what was probably actually 2-3 hours, I turned off the heat and left it to cool, then strained it and poured it into containers to freeze. It made about 8 cups of stock in all.

Phew! That was the end of my January 2nd.

The next soup I made was a brilliantly purple concoction that couldn’t be beet! (Okay, I’ll be honest – I did that for comic effect. It was in fact mostly beet.) I rooted around in my vegetable drawer for just the right veggies to roast for it. This thick, winter soup would be just the thing to keep you kale and hearty… All right, I’m done. For now. Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Kale

Ingredients (again, all amounts are VERY approximate)

  • Various vegetables, emphasis on roots – I used beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, and one sad-looking wrinkly zucchini that I found in the back of the crisper – scrubbed, ends trimmed off, peeled if necessary (I peeled the onions, carrots, and parsnips but not the beets), and chopped into large pieces of 1 1/2 – 2 inches
  • mix of ham stock, water, and red wine to cover vegetables (I used about 2 cups ham stock, 1 cup red wine, about 1 cup apple cider and enough water to make up the difference)
  • 3/4 of a bunch of kale, stems included, chopped (I had used the rest in a fettucine carbonara as I couldn’t find basil – also not a bad call)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper, and bay leaves

Dump vegetables except for kale into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Roast in 450°F oven until soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes.

Roasted vegetables

Some of the vegetables post-roasting.
©PicklesINK 2012

Scoop vegetables into large pot. Deglaze roasting pan with a little bit of water to get every last bit of roasty goodness and dump that liquid into the pot too. Add enough ham stock, red wine, cider, and water to cover vegetables. (This could of course be made vegetarian and/or alcohol-free using vegetable stock and/or more cider or other juice.) My ham stock and red wine were both frozen, so I just dumped in the cubes and let them melt on the stove. NB – I freeze my leftover wine before it goes bad. I have seen it suggested that you freeze it in ice cube trays and then store in freezer bags. I tried that and it leaked EVERYWHERE – wine doesn’t freeze completely and the slushy-liquidness will find the tiniest hold in your bag. Now I freeze it in plastic containers.

Roasted veg in pot with ham stock

Roasted vegetables in soup pot with frozen ham stock.
©PicklesINK 2012

Stuff all the kale into the pot on top of the whole mess (Don’t panic – the kale will shrink significantly as it cooks!)

Roasted veg soup topped with kale

Masses of kale covering everything else.
©PicklesINK 2012

Toss in a few bay leaves, put a lid on it, and leave it to simmer for a couple of hours.

Roasted veg soup cooking

Violently purple soup cooking (see how the kale has shrunk to practically nothing)
©PicklesINK 2012

When it looks and smells lovely (assuming you like beets – otherwise, when it looks and smells revolting, but if you don’t like beets I have to question your judgment in making this particular soup as I was pretty up front about the ingredients), puree with a hand blender. It should be really thick and hearty and purple and ready to stain anything it touches. If you don’t have a hand blender, let it cool, then transfer to a blender and puree, then transfer back to the pot and reheat why don’t you? Go to the store right now and get a freaking hand blender because it’s the greatest small kitchen appliance you will ever own, especially if you like making soup.

Roasted veg soup pureed

Pureed roasted vegetable soup
©PicklesINK 2012

Ladle into a bowl, top with something a little sour like sauerkraut, sour cream, plain yoghurt, or blue cheese, and enjoy.

Roasted veg soup with sauerkraut

Roasted Vegetable soup topped with sauerkraut
©PicklesINK 2012

Try not to eat it all in one sitting, though, because there is a curious physiological effect to eating a lot of beets at once. You’ve been warned.

Finally, remembering how when I said, “I have leftover bone-in ham,” my little brother said, “And you’re making split-pea soup, right? WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING SPLIT-PEA SOUP RIGHT NOW?” the final stop on this ham-venture (hmm…weak. Ham-scusion? Ham-Odyssey? No, they’re getting worse. I guess I’d better let sleeping pigs lie) was of course split-pea soup. Especially after Ben saw the last one and said, “Molly, mommy made purple soup! Your favourite colour! Mommy, will you make green soup for me?” I made it on a night that Ian was away because he claims to not like it even though I tell him over and over that all I am saying is give peas a chance…

Anyway, this was the simplest of them all.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

Ingredients

  • split peas
  • ham
  • soup

Fine, I’ll give you more than that:

  • 3 cups dried quick-cooking split peas (I used a mix of green and yellow)
  • 2 cups diced ham (remember that bag of ham I froze?)
  • 8 cups ham stock
Split peas

Dried green and yellow split peas awaiting their
tragic yet delicious fate
©PicklesINK 2012

Rinse and drain split peas and add to ham stock in large pot.

Split peas and ham stock

Split peas and ham stock in my giant soup pot
©PicklesINK 2012

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave it alone for an hour. Puree a little (leave it lumpy) with your hand blender while whispering lovingly to said blender, “How could I ever have lived without you, my precious?” and then add the ham.

Split pea and ham soup

Mmmm…pot of simmering split-pea and ham soup
©PicklesINK 2012

Simmer a little longer to let all the flavours combine, then serve. It will thicken up quite a lot as it cools and be gorgeous and murky and pea-soupy and delicious.

Split pea soup in bowl

Bowl of hearty green split-pea and ham soup
©PicklesINK 2012

My notoriously picky eater, Ben (who has actually come A LONG WAY in the last few months) said, “Mommy, what are you making for dinner? It smells really yummy,” when he got home from school, and on tasting it, pronounced, “Mmm! This is really good! I LOVE this soup! Did you hear what I said? I don’t just like it, I love it!!” Molly said decidedly, “I DON’T like it,” and then proceeded to scrape her bowl clean before Ben was halfway through his.

I call that a win all around!

Sadly, I am now out of ham stock until I invest in another basketball-sized lump of pink goodness.

~ karyn

Have you made it through your holiday leftovers? What did you do with them?








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Guest Post – Ice Cream Pizza

I have invited a guest blogger to write this post, since he is the one who introduced us to the idea of Ice Cream Pizza. I’ll let him introduce himself:

I am Benjamin Pickles and I’m 5 1/2 years old and Ben is the short form for my name.

I got the idea for ice cream pizza from Team Umizoomi.

This is a picture of Mili, Bot and Geo from Team Umizoomi.

On one episode they had to pump up an ice cream truck because the ice cream truck had a flat tire and they also had to make another ice cream pizza because there were 4 kids that were waiting for ice cream pizzas and there were only 3 ice cream pizzas. That’s how I found out how to make an ice cream pizza.

Recipe For Ice Cream Pizza

First step: A cookie

This is a picture of the cookie

This is a picture of the cookie. ©PicklesINK 2012

Second step: You need to put ice cream on the cookie.

This is two cookies with the ice cream on the cookies.

This is two cookies with the ice cream on the cookies. ©PicklesINK 2012

Third step: Put gummy candies on top of the ice cream on the cookie and you can put chocolate on it too.

This one is a picture of one ice cream pizza with the chocolate on it.

This one is a picture of one ice cream pizza with the chocolate on it. ©PicklesINK 2012

This one is a picture of the ice cream pizza with the gummy candies and the chocolate on it.

This one is a picture of the ice cream pizza with the gummy candies and the chocolate on it. ©PicklesINK 2012

And after that it’s all done! After you’ve made it, you can eat it!

This is a picture of Molly eating an ice cream pizza.

This is a picture of Molly eating an ice cream pizza. ©PicklesINK 2012

This is a picture of me eating an ice cream pizza. ©PicklesINK 2012

This is a picture of me eating an ice cream pizza. ©PicklesINK 2012

If you try out the recipe you might like it or if you have kids they might like it too. Ice cream pizza is one of my favourite things to eat for dessert and I hope that you will like it too!

~ Ben

What do you think? Are you going to try it? Did you like it?

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The Sneaky Chef

One of the most successful strategies for dealing with picky eaters is the one around which Missy Chase Lapine, also known as “The Sneaky Chef” has built an empire – hiding “healthy” foods in foods with more picky kid appeal. Her first book includes recipes for a number of make-ahead purees in colours that will hide easily in various foods. For example, her Purple Puree becomes an invisible part of her Brainy Brownies. It’s a brilliant idea, and I sure wish I’d thought of and cashed in on it first!!

The basic idea is just that – basic – though, so you don’t really need to buy her books in order to mix less “desirable” ingredients into recipes that will spark a more positive reaction (or at least less screeching) than those ingredients on their own. (One I’m really intrigued to try is a recipe I have for brownies with pureed black beans. Don’t tell Ian.)

This week’s success story was a ham and cheese pasta bake, one of Ian’s family’s favourites growing up. It’s a delicious casserole dish full of cheesy yumminess, but incorporates no fruits or veggies, so usually they would have to be served on the side.

For some reason, even though it is made entirely of stuff Ben LIKES (individually) pasta bake is guaranteed to provoke a dinnertime meltdown before he eats that crucial first bite…and a Ben dinnertime meltdown is guaranteed to provoke similar complaints from Molly even though she doesn’t actually mean them (“Yeah! I don’t like this too! *nom nom nom* It’s yucky! *nom nom nom*).

Ham and Cheese Pasta Bake

1lb cooked short pasta (ie. fusili, penne, rigatoni)
4 eggs
1/2L half&half or table cream
200g shaved ham, chopped
2 cups (at least) cheese (ie. cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, gruyere – don’t use all orange cheddar or you’ll get that icky orange grease, and don’t use all mozzarella or it won’t have enough cheesy flavour)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix eggs and cream together. Mix in cheese (reserving ½ cup for top) and ham. Pour over pasta in a large casserole dish (or 2 smaller ones) and mix well. Top with remaining cheese. Bake in oven for 45-60 minutes or more if necessary to set filling. (The deeper the dish, the longer it will take.) Broil for a minute or so to brown top if desired. Top with fresh ground pepper for serving.

Delicious! Delicious hot from the oven, delicious reheated for lunch, delicious with a side salad…

Anyway, the other day I was inspired to try to make it a bit healthier, Sneaky Chef-style, as well as remove the need for the vegetable side, so I suggested that Ian (who was in charge of the cooking that day) replace part of the eggs and cream with a can of pure pumpkin puree. The result was:

Pumpkin Puree Pasta
©PicklesINK 2012

The kids literally ate it up (and in this case, use of the word ‘literally’ will not make me figuratively insane!). I think I may have to bring it to market: Picky Pickles-Pleasing Pumpkin Puree Pasta – It’s so delicious I guarantee that the only thing melting down will be the cheese!

One thing that I do find important about the “sneaky” method is not actually being sneaky. Once the kids have tried and like it, I do the big reveal: “Do you know what the secret ingredient is that makes it so yummy? PUMPKIN!!”

Molly tasting the pumpkin pasta.
©PicklesINK 2012

I was hoping that the pumpkin would be neutral and not overpower the cheese, but it came out a touch sweetly pumpkinny for the grown-up palate. I think it might have been better with a stronger-flavoured cheese, like a Gruyere or goat cheese. As well the ham got a bit lost, so I would be tempted to replace it with either a mild Italian sausage to complement the pumpkin or a salami or Chorizo sausage to spice it up a bit.

What do you think? Appealing or yucky? How do you deal with dinnertime meldowns?

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Holy vats of chili, Batman!

A committee that I am on at my church (okay, full disclosure: The committee to prepare for a congregational vote regarding the marriage policy, as described in a previous post) is hosting a lunch and discussion session this coming Sunday. Racked with guilt because I cannot be there for the actual discussion, I volunteered to make chili for the lunch. We have no idea how many people will actually attend, but we optimistically decided to be prepared for 40-50, so this afternoon I found myself making giant vats of chili, which actually went much more smoothly than I ever could have imagined, even with Ben’s “help”!

I had an idea for my chili, based on my dad’s recipe on which I grew up, but in order to get an idea for how many people it would feed, I asked my friend Google to find me a “fast chili recipe with beef” and then chose the one closest to my dad’s, which gave me this:

CHILI — THE FAST AND EASY WAY
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 (16 oz.) cans red kidney beans
2 (16 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes (preferably Mexican style)
2 (16 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder

Brown ground beef and onions together in skillet. Transfer to large kettle. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium low heat. Cook until heated well and most of the liquid is cooked down. This can be adjusted easily according to your own taste for thicker or thinner chili.

I quadrupled the amounts and planned some modifications, adding tomato paste, corn, garlic, and red and green bell peppers and substituting ground pork for some of the beef, and reducing the amount of meat while increasing the amount of beans slightly. I also used a variety of beans instead of just red kidney beans. That left my shopping list looking like this:

5 lbs. ground beef
2 lbs. ground pork
6 bell peppers (red and green)
4 large onions
20 cloves garlic
10 cans beans (red kidney beans, white kidney beans, black beans)
4 cans whole stewed tomatoes
4 cans diced tomatoes
8 cans tomato sauce
3 cans tomato paste
1 bag frozen corn
1 packet chili powder

I got it home and started chopping, making good use of my trusty Cusinart Mini-Prep food processor (fantastic for making family meals into baby food as well as for finely chopping onions and garlic!).

Ingredients assembled: Finely chopped onion and garlic, diced peppers, and a vast array of canned tomatoes and beans.
©PicklesINK 2012

Once the chopping was done, I started cooking the ground beef and pork

Ground beef and pork cooking on the stove.
©PicklesINK 2012

and put Ian and Ben to work opening cans.

Ben pouring tomato sauce into the giant vat o’ tomato.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben next job was to find and crush the whole tomatoes, which he did with relish.*

Tremble with fear, tomatoes,
at the wrath of Sir Ben!
©PicklesINK 2012

Once all the meat was cooked, I cooked the onions, garlic, and peppers in batches, mixed them with the meat, and assembled my vats o’ ingredients.

Vats o’ ingredients: Tomato mixture, meat/onions/garlic/peppers, and mixed beans.
©PicklesINK 2012

Finally, I mixed it all together in my three biggest pots, trying to keep the ratio of ingredients as even as possible, and added liberal amounts of chili powder to each.

My 3 biggest pots barely fit on the stove together!
©PicklesINK 2012

It looked pretty good mixed together, and smells pretty fabulous simmering on the stove. I plan to add the frozen corn when it’s finished to help cool it down.

Yummy-looking pot o’ chili!
©PicklesINK 2012

Stay tuned until next week when I will hopefully hear how the congregation liked it – Same BAT-TIME, same BAT-CHANNEL!

~ karyn

*Please note that the relish was figurative. Real relish would have been gross.

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PESTO-CHANGEO!

My herb garden didn’t do very well, this year, unfortunately, due to a tried and true combination of procrastination, unfavourable weather, and sheer neglect. Happily, though, big bags of basil were on sale at the grocery store this week so I was still able to make a nice batch of pesto!

I don’t know if you’ve herb, but oil admit that I’m a pretty big pesto fan. In fact, it may be a bit cheesy, but I’m nut afraid to admit that when I run out, I pine for it. Store-bought, I’m afraid, leafs me a bit cold, and I can’t enjoy it with the same relish. (Was ‘relish’ too much of a stretch? It is a green condiment…)

Anyhoo…homemade pesto is super, super, super, amazingly simple, but the flip-side of that simplicity is the better your ingredients, the better the end result. That means no powdered Kraft “Parmesan” cheese product- you want the real thing and you want to grate it yourself – and your very best extra virgin olive oil. I used Acropolis Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which I happened to sample in the grocery store a little while back and was totally sold on – I don’t often wax poetic about olive oil, but this one is really, really good, and I was surprised at how reasonably it was priced. It is an oil in which to dip your focaccia bread or to drizzle over your salad – Never, EVER heat it on the stove, unless you want to make me cry…

Basil Pesto

2 cups tightly packed basil leaves and stems (unless they’re really woody)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Toast the pine nuts lightly in a saucepan until they start to turn golden brown and smell good, then cool.

Put everything else in a food processor and process until smooth.

Add pine nuts and process until chopped and combined (I like to leave it a little crunchy).

Transfer to a freezer-safe container and press plastic wrap tightly onto the surface to keep it from discolouring, then freeze!

©PicklesINK 2012

Whenever you want to use it, dig some frozen pesto out with a fork and toss it into or spread it onto whatever you’re making (thaw it on the counter or for 10-20 sec in the microwave if you need to). Great on pizza or pasta, in omelettes (with some cheese and tomato), stuffed into a chicken breast (which is then wrapped in ham and baked in the oven), or, you know, just eat it with a spoon.

I’ll let you know how the kids like it!

~ karyn

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Salmon = WINNING!

Continuing with the winning salmon (or “pretty pink fish”) trend, yesterday I tried salmon and carrots en papillote.

Maple Dijon Salmon with Matchstick Carrots en Papillote

4 salmon portions (skin on or off)

1 – 1 1/2 cups julienned carrots

1 lemon, zested, juiced and cut into 1/8s

1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard

2 tbsp maple syrup

parchment paper

Cut parchment paper into circles about 10″ in diameter (fold squares in half and cut out half-circles, then unfold). Stir together lemon zest, juice, mustard, and maple syrup and coat salmon with it.

Salmon in maple Dijon dressing
©PicklesINK 2012

Place 1 portion of salmon on fold of parchment paper circle, pile 1/4 of carrots and 2 pieces of lemon on top. Form parchment paper “package” by joining sides of parchment together and then folding the sides over tightly several times; repeat around the whole edge of the parchment paper until it is tightly sealed.

Cooked salmon in parchment
©PicklesINK 2012

Repeat to make the other 3 packets then place on a baking sheet and bake in 375°F oven for 12-15 minutes.

Ben’s dinner
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben. Ate. Every. Last. Bite.

I still don’t know what’s gotten into him, but I’m going to ride this wave while it’s here!

~ karyn

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Salmon Wellington FTW!!

I don’t know what happened last night…I’m still kind of in shock! I think I entered the Twilight Zone for a little while.

“For God’s sake, Bella, it’s just an apple.”
“I don’t care, Edward! Why do you always give me things I don’t like? You know I hate apples! They have skins! And they’re cold! Why can’t you just give me things I like?”
Photo from: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/twilight-series/images/720496/title/movie-posters-fanart

At some point last night, at the dinner table (it’s all still kind of a haze) I heard the words, “Can I have some more broccoli?” and “Can I please have some more salmon?” and if I hadn’t seen my kids’ lips moving I would have assumed that I had invited some cruciferous vegetable and Atlantic fish-loving hobo in to eat and promptly forgotten about it.

I’ve already talked about Ben’s picky eating at length. It has been a lot better since he turned 5, and he did really well in Germany, but “a lot better” is relative and means that instead of a screaming, flailing meltdown EVERY dinnertime, we just have a whining, complaining argument 9 out of 10 times. And the 10th dinner is pizza.

The biggest problem now is not so much Ben (in the end, he does eat it), but Molly, who actually loves to eat ANYTHING, but loves to imitate what her beloved big brother does even more. So almost every mealtime now goes, “Ben, eat your dinner please.” “But I don’t like this!” “Just eat it, please.” “Ohhhhhhhh…” *grudgingly eats a bite* “Molly, please eat your dinner.” “But I don’t YIKE this!” *flings it on the floor*

Ian is away for the week, which means that I can eat and feed the kids all the seafood I like (he’s not a fan). Yesterday I thought, what the heck, I feel like eating the frozen President’s Choice Salmon Wellington that’s been in the freezer for ages, and I’ll deal with the consequences when my dinner-shunning kids sit down at the table.

I had fairly low expectations of success, giving Ben’s meltdown this morning over being told that I had put macaroni and cheese in his lunch instead of his usual bagel with cream cheese.

The only thing that I can think of that made tonight different was that instead of telling Ben what was for dinner, I let him figure it out for himself when he saw it on the table:

Ben: “What’s dinner?”

Me: “Dinner is the meal that comes after lunch and before bedtime.” (HAHAHAHAHA!!! That line never gets old!!)

Ben (actually laughing this time – we’re off to a good start!): “No, what’s FOR dinner?’

Me: “What do you think it looks like?”

Ben: “I can see that it’s broccoli, but what’s the other thing? Croissants?”

Me: “That’s a good guess – it’s kind of like croissants. It’s fish stick, but instead of cereal for the breading it has croissant. It’s called Salmon Wellington.”

Ben: “Oh. Okay.”

Oh. Okay”??? That’s when I knew something was up. I never get, “Oh, Okay.” It’s usually more like, “Ohhhhhh….but why? I don’t like that! Why do you always give me what I don’t like???” “But you like fish sticks, and you like croissants.” “But I don’t like them together!! Ohhhhh!!!!”

Maybe psychologically there’s something going on there – If I tell him what’s for dinner, and it doesn’t match the idea that he has in his head of what he wants, cue freak-out…but if I ask him to look at something unfamiliar and figure it out for himself, his brain has time to adjust to what he is seeing while trying to apply a name to it, and by the time he has figured out how to fit it into a familiar box, he has come to terms with it and maybe is even intrigued. Who knows? I don’t know if this was the key or not, but I’m definitely going to try it again.

Anyway, from there on it went swimmingly (heheheh). Ben decided to get himself a knife so he could cut his dinner up with a knife and fork like me, and Molly followed suit. Molly decided that salmon is her favourite because it’s pink (note to self: serve more pink foods). Ben STOLE a piece of salmon off Molly’s plate and ate it. Let me repeat that please, for my own benefit – he ACTUALLY FREAKING STOLE A PIECE OF SALMON OFF MOLLY’S PLATE AND ATE IT. Molly devoured her broccoli without stopping to draw breath. Ben squeezed his salmon out of the puff pastry and cut it up and ate it, then ate all his broccoli.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.
©PicklesINK 2012

I stared in mute shock at their empty plates and then offered them dessert. They accepted and happily ate their chocolate stars. And then came the kicker:

Molly: “Tan I pease have some more broccoyi?”

Ben: “And can I have some more salmon? But not the breading this time. I didn’t really like that. Just the fish?”

Molly: “Yeah tan I have some more salmon too?”

Me: *jaw hits the floor*

~ karyn

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Food glorious food…coma.

German food. Very, very yummy. Not a lot of emphasis on green. Or red. Or orange. Unless they’re Smarties and gummy bears sprinkled on ice cream. But definite emphasis on the delicious. Here is the round-up of what we ate:

Every morning started with someone, usually Grandad, venturing to the bakery (or “makery,” as Molly termed it, which makes a sort of sense) with one or two children in tow to pick up fresh rolls (and gummy bears for the kids – breakfast of champions!).

Fresh-baked every morning!
©PicklesINK 2012

These would be served at the breakfast table along with soft-boiled eggs, fresh-churned butter, assorted jams, ham and salami, and local cheeses, most notably the delicious Heumilchkäse and Blumenkäse (literally, hay-milk cheese and flower cheese). The Heumilchkäse has a distinctly barnyard aroma and strong flavour and the Blumenkäse is milder and rolled in dried wildflowers. Heaven for a cheese-lover like myself! Ian wasn’t quite so enthralled and the kids were for the most part indifferent.

Heumilchkäse and Blumenkäse
©PicklesINK 2012

I have to confess to a weakness for Schnitzel und Spätzle so I sampled both as often as I could. My first opportunity was outside of Munich when we went to get the estimate for my (*sniff*) broken stroller (*sniff*) where we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and I had Schnitzel mit Pfeffer-Sahnesauce und Spätzle (schnitzel with peppercorn cream sauce and spatzle noodles/dumplings). I was so hungry that I ate it all without thinking to take a picture first so unfortunately I have no record except for the memory of its utter deliciousness, but the sauce was creamy and amazing and the spatzle was plump and had been crisped to golden perfection.

We enjoyed a lovely meal al fresco at the Biergarten across from the house where I had Champignon Schnitzel und Spätzle (schnitzel with mushroom cream sauce and spatzle). I realize that I have unfairly painted all of the German chefs with the same brush – as you can see this meal did include some green and orange!

Champignon Schnitzel und Spätzle.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly each enjoyed a Kinder-Schnitzel und Kartoffel Kroketten (kiddie meal of schnitzel with potato croquettes), to which I had introduced my picky eater before we left to make sure that there was something he would eat in German restaurants…

Kinder-Schnitzel und Kartoffel Kroketten
©PicklesINK 2012

And German mall food courts:

Schnitzel und Spätzle (again)
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On another beautiful sunny day out we again had lunch on the patio of another local restaurant where I had (you guessed it!) Jägerschnitzel und Spätzle (schnitzel with mushroom gravy) and a Radler (half Pilsner, half Sprite). Yes, I may have a Spätzle problem.

Jägerschnitzel und Spätzle
©PicklesINK 2012

Ian went off script and had Hähnchen-Cordon-Bleu mit pommes (chicken cordon-bleu with french fries). Once again, I realize that I was unfair to the German chefs as his meal also included a variety of vegetables. Bundled together with a strip of bacon.

Hähnchen-Cordon-Bleu und pommes
©PicklesINK 2012

Sometimes of course we needed a break from the heavy German food. Fortunately there was an excellent take-away pizza restaurant down the road that did European-style thin crust wood-fired pizza with every topping imaginable. 

Pizza Hawaii
©PicklesINK 2012

Pizza Oliven Salami Peperoni
©PicklesINK 2012

For our last night out we ate at an Italian restaurant where I had Tortellini mit Gorgonzola, which was delicious,

Tortellini mit Gorgonzola
©PicklesINK 2012

and a bowl of Pfifferlingen Cremesuppe, a cream soup of the locally in season Chanterelle mushrooms.

Pfifferlingen Cremesuppe
©PicklesINK 2012

Of course, it wasn’t all savoury dishes. Germans are also very fond of ice cream. In the form of ice cream sundaes:

Haselnuss-Eis
©PicklesINK 2012

Banana splits:

Bananen-Eis
©PicklesINK 2012

Liquor-spiked chocolate milk with a scoop of ice cream topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings:

Baileys Eisschokolade
©PicklesINK 2012

And of course, appropriately small portions of ice cream for the children:

Kinder-Überraschung-Eis
©PicklesINK 2012

As comfortingly delicious as it all was, the first thing we did when we got home was head to the grocery store to stock up on a fresh, crisp, brightly-coloured assortment of fruits and vegetables.

Produce, sweet produce!
©PicklesINK 2012

I ate half a cantaloupe for dinner yesterday and I may swear off white flour for good.

~ karyn

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But I don’t LIKE that!

Food. Delicious, comforting, nutritious, not-so-nutritious, sweet, savoury, spicy, sticky, crunchy, chewy, bland food. Food can be a source of great pleasure…or, for the parents of a picky eater, agonizing despair.

Ben started life as a 4 lb. 10 oz. preemie, delivered at 33 1/2 weeks. Happily, aside from being teeny, he had none of the challenges one usually expects with babies born that early. He was fed first by nasogastric tube and then a combination of breast and bottle (the debate around which will I’m sure the topic of another post at some point).

Yes, he is doing “The Emperor” from Star Wars…
dun dun dun dun da dun dun da dun…
©PicklesINK 2012

We went on to start “solids” (purees) around 6 months and he ate ANYTHING. I was super-adventurous mom – I made my own baby food and mixed spices into everything (cinnamon carrots…curried chicken and broccoli…gingered squash). His favourite foods were kalmata olives, feta cheese, and anything with curry powder. I patted myself on the back and felt superior to all those moms who feed their kids boring purees and set themselves up for a lifetime of catering to their kids’ bland palates.

This was probably curried something.
©PicklesINK 2012

And then around 18 months, “More! More!” suddenly turned into “MMMMM!!” which is the sound of a toddler with his mouth clamped tighter than the trash compactor on the detention level of the Death Star. As an added bonus, always a bit of a puker (gastroesophageal reflux being one of his remaining preemie traits), Ben discovered the ability to barf on command to demonstrate his disinterest in eating something. Suddenly I had become a mom of a dreaded picky eater.

After I worked through the initial denial, anger, and grief (there is nothing quite like sobbing hysterically at the dinner table while Googling “How do I get my picky toddler to eat?” on your laptop while your 3 year-old screams, “NO!! I don’t LIKE that!! Why are you making me eat that?? I don’t LIKE it!!”), I slowly reached the acceptance stage.

A lot of the websites out there on picky eaters will tell you not to engage in power struggles – you choose what to put in front of your child and he or she chooses how much of it to eat and I wholeheartedly agree that power struggles around food can lead down an unhealthy path. The websites suggest offering a variety of foods, changing utensils, ignoring, removing distractions, using reward charts, etc. None of those tips worked for us and the list of things Ben wouldn’t eat grew: Raw vegetables were too crunchy. Cooked vegetables were too wet. Grapes and blueberries had skins. Ice cream was too cold. (ICE CREAM!! THE KID WOULDN’T EAT ICE CREAM, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE!) Just about everything else “didn’t swallow very well” (ie. led to puking). And the behaviour at the dinner table (both his and ours) got worse and worse.

Finally we realized that we were dealing with two separate issues at mealtimes: what Ben ate and how he behaved. We decided that while we had no power over what he liked or how much he ate, we did have a responsibility to teach him to act appropriately at the table, and for us that meant no yelling, no arguing, and no declaring that he didn’t like something without trying it first. To deal with the behaviour piece we implemented the “try a bite or you sit out rule.” For time-outs we used Supernanny’s Naughty Step technique: the CALM but firm warning – place in neutral time-out spot for prescribed time period – return to time-out spot – repeat as necessary – apology – hug and kiss predictability of this worked really well for Ben and for us.

To deal with the “what Ben ate” piece, I focused on offering him a variety of foods but making what I knew he would eat as nutritious as possible, which meant making my own fish sticks and chicken fingers breaded in crushed bran or corn flakes, pureeing vegetables like carrots, zucchini, pumpkin or spinach into tomato sauce and serving over whole-wheat pasta, and baking a whole lot of the best ever “blank slate” muffins using my sister-in-law-to-be’s recipe:

These can be customized pretty any way you can think of – replace the banana and/or the oil with applesauce or jarred baby food (sweet potato or carrot work well); add grated or whole fruits or vegetables like carrot, zucchini, or berries; spice it up with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, or cardamom; use whole wheat flour or oat bran for the flour; or boost the nutritional punch with additions like yoghurt, powdered milk, wheat germ, or ground flax – just increase the baking powder to help it rise as you add more “stuff.”

Ben turned 5 in May, and as suddenly as the pickiness started, it stopped – just in time, too, because Molly, who is NOT AT ALL a picky eater had just started to imitate her big brother’s, “I don’t LIKE that!!” just like she imitates everything else he does. Ben will now try most things that I put in front of him with, if not enthusiasm, at least much less argument than previously, and has even been heard in the past few months to say, “Can I try some of that, mommy?” The majority of these taste-tests now elicit a grudging, “Well, don’t LOVE it, but I LIKE it,” and in the words of Abraham “Grampa” Simpson, “Hot diggety-damn, that’s good enough for me!”

Ben enjoying a surf-and-turf dinner of lobster and steak with fuzzy water in a wine glass – “I don’t love the lobster, but I like it.”
©PicklesINK 2012

Molly, on the other hand, loves it.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ice cream: No longer “too cold.”
©PicklesINK 2012

And for Molly, ice cream = food = LOVE
©PicklesINK 2012

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