Enjoying The Whole Vegetable – Broccoli

Do you use all the parts of your vegetables? Did you know that a lot of vegetable parts that are often thrown away or composted (leaves, stems) are edible and delicious? There are actually some odds and ends that I like better than the part of the vegetable that is most commonly eaten. One of these favorites is the broccoli stem.

enjoying the whole vegetable - broccoli stems

The crown or florets are what most of us think of when we hear “broccoli” but the stem or stalk of the plant is a wonderful vegetable in its own right. Broccoli stems have the broccoli flavor, although a little milder, without getting limp and soggy quickly like the florets can if overcooked (which happens to me all the time – you walk away for a minute and that’s exactly when the broccoli is done!).

To prepare it, I cut the crown off first and then use a vegetable peeler to take the outer layer off the stem. This isn’t absolutely necessary but I have found that the outer layer can be a bit tough sometimes. Then I cut the stem into thin slices and use it as I would any other vegetable.

I always add the stems if I’m steaming broccoli for a side dish. They need a minute or two longer to cook so add them a little earlier than the florets. I also love using the stem instead of the florets when I cook stir-frys. The stem slices stay pretty firm so they add a nice crunch to the dish and aren’t as compromised when reheating the leftovers (I really dislike reheated, limp broccoli).

Other uses for broccoli stalks are to shred them for broccoli slaw, use them in soups, toss them in a salad or with pasta, or use them as vegetable “chips” for dipping.

How do you enjoy your broccoli stalks?

 

April Fools’ Dinner: Meatloaf and Mashed Potato Cupcakes

I’m not a huge April Fools’ person but it is a nice opportunity to have a little fun and be silly with the family. Last year my four year old daughter helped me concoct these “cupcakes” for dinner and loved fooling her Dad!

Cupcakes for dinner? April Fools! | dailydeliberations.com

 

They’re super easy! Just use your favorite meatloaf recipe (this recipe from Martha Stewart is one of my sister’s favorites and what I base my own recipe on – I’d share mine but I never measure when I make it) and cook in a muffin pan instead of a loaf pan, shortening the baking time appropriately. When the cupcakes have 5-10 minutes left to bake spread or pipe some mashed potatoes on top and put them back in the oven to finish up. I topped mine with some grated carrot “sprinkles!” Happy April Fool’s!!

 

Feeding the Kids – Family Style dinners

I haven’t written too much in this space about my kids. I’m not sure why as most of my daily energy goes to taking care of them and a good portion of that energy goes to feeding them – deciding what feed them, making the food, cleaning up after the food is eaten…

ending dinnertime battles with family style dinners | dailydeliberations.com

Maybe this blog has been an escape of sorts… an escape from the reality that feeding kids can be pure torture. I really do love to cook and I love to make food for my kids. At least I love the idea of making food for my kids. But often the reality of the situation is more like this scenario:

child: What’s for dinner?
me: I made you your favorite, lemon chicken.
child: oh yum!

We sit down to eat and the child pushes the food around on her plate without taking a bite. 

me: what’s the matter? you need to eat.
child: I don’t want it.
me: why?
child: it’s too… chicken-y

Yes, that happens.

My overarching approach to feeding the kids is that it is my job to provide the food and the kid’s job to eat it. My husband and I have one non-negotiable – that we do not make a special meal for anyone. (Note: This does not mean that the kids always eat the same thing as us. There are occasions when I will cook them something else but that is my choice, not theirs.) But, the reality is that it is hard to sit there and watch your kids not eat. So we end up bargaining – “just eat 2 bites, then you can get down” or “if you try 1 bite of your pork you can have more bread”. And we end up frustrated. And feeding them bananas before bed because they’re “still hungry, mama.”

So a couple of weeks ago I read somewhere that one approach to this eating dilemma is to let your kids serve themselves dinner. I have never done that. Not because I don’t want to encourage their independence but because I don’t want to have extra serving dishes to wash, or an entire kitchen to clean after dinner has been spilled/catapulted all over it. But I decided to give it a try.

And to my amazement, it has worked! We told the kids to only take what they could eat - they were responsible for what went on their plate and were expected to eat what they took. They could always go back for seconds if they were still hungry. At first, the kids were shocked (and delighted!) that we were letting them help themselves.  And now, after a few family style dinners, they seem to relish the sense of control that they have over what is on their plates. They actually take reasonable amounts of food and eat it!

I don’t expect this to be the end of our dinnertime angst altogether but we have had several very pleasant meals using this approach so I’m sticking with it. Extra dirty dishes and all!

{original image source}

 

 

Baked Tomato and Sausage (or mushroom) Risotto

We all have meals that we grew up with, the ones that Mom or Dad made every week or two, that remind of us of childhood and home. My Mom’s american chop suey is one of those meals. I have no idea exactly where it originated but my Mom’s version was essentially a sauce made from ground beef and onions in condensed tomato soup with lots of grated parmesan cheese and then mixed into elbow macaroni. A sort of homemade version of Hamburger Helper if you will.

tomato and sausage (or mushroom) risotto

As an adult I have made that dish only a handful of times. Mostly because it’s never really the same when I make it and also because I don’t tend to keep condensed soup in the house. But then a couple of years ago my sister was having dinner at my house and I tried out this recipe for Tomato and Sausage Risotto from Smitten Kitchen.  As we both swallowed our first bite we looked at each other in surprise – it tasted like Mom’s american chop suey! Updated comfort food! It was an instant hit and a variation of the recipe has been on rotation in my kitchen ever since.

Baked Tomato and Sausage (Or Mushroom) Risotto

Since making the original recipe, I have adapted it to suit our personal tastes and also to eliminate the need to stir the risotto during the 25 minute cooking time. I have also created a vegetarian version using mushrooms. If you’re making the mushroom version add in the Italian sausage seasoning as noted to still get that sausage flavor. You can also make with a combination of half sausage and half mushrooms if you want to cut down the amount of meat a bit.

  • 1 28oz diced tomatoes, juice reserved
  • ~3c of water, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed or a 16oz pkg mushrooms finely chopped
  • if using mushrooms – 1/2 tbsp Italian sausage seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium sized Dutch oven or other large oven-safe saucepan, sauté the sausage (or mushrooms) and onion in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (and sausage seasoning if using the mushrooms) and cook for about 5 minutes – until the sausage is cooked through and the onion is soft, making sure to break up the sausage as you go along.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  4. Add white wine and cook until it is absorbed, about another minute.
  5. Measure the juice from the tomatoes and add enough water to make 4 cups of liquid. Add this to the pan along with the diced tomatoes.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan, transfer it to the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes. The risotto is done when the liquid is absorbed and the rice is just cooked through.
  7. Remove the risotto from the oven, stir in the butter and cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve. 

Do you have a favorite childhood comfort food that you’ve updated? Please share!

Birthday Traditions

A birthday memory… standing in the kitchen, seeing my mom come toward me, and running as fast as I could to get away. She would chase me through the house until she finally had me cornered and then butter my nose! There was always a vague explanation of it being for good luck but really I know she just loved the chase… and the tradition.

birthday traditions

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had my nose buttered but this year I started the tradition again with my own kids. They had no idea what was happening and so there was not a high speed chase through the house this year but I’m betting next year they’ll give me a run for my money!

Do you have any fun birthday traditions that you’ve carried on with your kids?

 

Do your food processor blades need to be sharpened?

This might seem like a random, silly question but until last week I had never even contemplated it before. I try to get my knives sharpened every few months but I had never thought about the food processor blades.

However, as I was making a chimichurri sauce I noticed that the processor was not doing a good job of chopping up the parsley. I use both the leaves and stems of the parsley and while the stems were not the freshest there should not have been long strands still left after a couple of minutes of pulsing them.

So it turns out that yes, after several years (depending on how much you actually use the machine) food processor blades do get dull and should be sharpened. You can do this yourself if you’re good at knife sharpening (I am not) or you can take them to local store to be sharpened. Most Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table stores provide this service as do lots of local cooking shops and some hardware stores. I take my knives to a knife sharpener who has a booth at our farmer’s market and will sharpen them while I shop.

I guess I know where I’m headed soon!

A Winter Cleanse – Part 3

I’ve been finished with my cleanse for about week now and have been transitioning back to a fuller diet. Normally, I would add food groups back in one at time with a few days between each, paying attention to how each addition made me feel. This allows me to see if there’s a particular item that causes congestion, headaches, an upset stomach, etc. It also provides a continuing framework to keep me mindful of what I am eating – staying aware of what I am putting in my mouth and how my body reacts to it.

A Winter Food Cleanse Part 3| Daily Deliberations

However, this year for various reasons, I added items back in quicker than I have in the past. Over the past few days I’ve added back everything that I eliminated (alcohol, sugar, dairy, meat, and gluten) and while I did not have the benefit of seeing how (or if) each impacted my body  I have maintained other benefits.

I have continued to make an effort to eat mindfully. To not just pick up food (especially children’s snacks and leftovers) without thinking and put it into my mouth. I have stuck to eating only at meal times and a couple of small snacks.

I have a renewed sense of portion sizes. This is something that I work to reset each year as over the course of 12 months it seems that I lose a sense of what is a proper portion. By taking the time to measure and remember what an appropriate portion looks like in my bowls or on my plates I start the year with the proper targets in mind.

I have changed the make-up of our meals to focus more on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and less on meat. This has been a work in progress for my family over the past few years and after each year’s cleanse I find it easier to just eat less meat. This was the first year that my husband also joined me in eliminating meat entirely and he was surprised to find that once the cleanse was over he really wasn’t craving it. So while we have added meat back into our diet I try to use it more as a flavoring or side dish rather than the main focus of our meals.

Finally, I am feeling more positive about our current way of eating. I had really deviated from my preferred diet over the final months of 2013 and this cleanse really did help me reset and find the conviction and motivation to get back on track. And I feel so much better! It was definitely a worthwhile 12 days!

You can read more about the details of my food cleanse here:

Did you undertake a cleanse or food detox this year? Please share how you’re feeling or any lessons you’ve learned!