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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting vegetables into ALL your meals – plus Ranch Dressing and Broccoli Slaw recipes


VEGETABLES, Photo by "tellgraf", Image ID: 881416,

Just about any health authority recommends eating more fruits and vegetables.  The CDC even has a calculator to tell you how much is recommended for you based on your age, gender, and activity level.  

Generally, I don’t have any problem getting fruit into my kids.  No, not juice, which kids drink way too much of, but actual real whole fruit.  It is sweet and delicious, and since I deal with all the mess and work of buying, cutting, and preparing it, all they have to do is love eating it.

But, sometimes veggies are a different matter.  Fruit, we generally eat close to how nature provided it.  I will cut it up or peel it, if necessary, but we usually have it raw and unseasoned.  Veggies however, can get to be a bit boring that way.  And, there are some veggies my kids don’t like raw, such as broccoli. 

So, a lot of the time I either steam the veggies and serve them with a bit of real butter, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, or roast them in the oven in a bit of olive oil.  We do this with root veggies similar to Jamie Oliver and Ina Garten.  We also like to cook broccoli and asparagus by roasting in the oven.  So, that takes care of the dinner veggies; but what about breakfast and lunch?

Now that my girls are in school and packing a cold lunch this has presented a bit of a challenge.  During Pre-K, they would eat lunch at home and we would just heat up leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.  But now, since they have to eat their lunch cold from a lunchbox, that is not an option.

The triplets like salad, but Emma doesn’t.  So, green salads for lunch each day would not be a solution.  I have tried making a simple broccoli slaw and that goes over well with three of them, but again Emma is not that crazy about it.  The veggie and grain salads using such things as quinoa that I have tried have not been well-received.  So, this leaves putting some raw grape tomatoes (LOVED by all) and some baby-cut carrot sticks in just about all their lunches.  I usually include a little container of either homemade hummus or homemade ranch dressing with it.  But, kind of boring.  Do you have any other ideas for incorporating veggies into kid’s lunchbox lunches?

That brings us to breakfast.  A while back, we participated in the “100 days of real food” blog’s “Mini-Pledge Week 1: Fruits and Vegetables” where you were supposed to “Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables (preferably organic) with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal.”  Dinner is no problem, lunch we can do with the tomato/carrot option, and we always have fruit at breakfast.  But, how to incorporate veggies into breakfast on a daily basis?

Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom, Shallot, & Goat Cheese Fritatta

Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom, Shallot, & Goat Cheese Fritatta - Don't let the smile fool you, she only ate half of it!

My kids like scrambled eggs and we have them at least five times a week for breakfast as they are a cheap and healthy source of protein.  So, the most obvious solution is an omelet or frittata where I  add some veggies such as spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. to the eggs.  But, when I have tried that, they only eat about half their eggs and they complain that they want their “plain eggs” instead.  I even think that serving dinner-style steamed veggies as a side to plain eggs may be received better. 

Another option it to serve raw or grilled tomatoes (British-style) as a side.  I have also tried Everyday Paleo’s baked eggs that include spinach and sweet potatoes and “Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Parmesan”, also known as “Eggs in Purgatory” from various sources.  They ate these, but again, wanted to go back to plain scrambled eggs.  For snacks we have done “green smoothies” by adding raw spinach to yogurt, fruit, and milk in the blender.  They liked it, but more as a snack, not so much for breakfast.

So, I am looking for ideas on how to incorporate vegetables (not as juices) in ALL your meals, especially into breakfast. 

– Stacey

Here are a couple of my recipes for some of the foods mentioned above:

Simple Broccoli Slaw

  • 1 bag Broccoli Slaw (12oz, about 4 cups, shredded broccoli stems with a bit of purple cabbage and shredded carrots)

    Broccoli Slaw

    Broccoli Slaw

  • 2 tsp prepared yellow mustard (adjust to your taste)
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Mix it all together in a large bowl.  Makes about 6-8 servings as a side. This is not a sweet slaw, but a bit spicy.

Ranch Dressing
(based on this one from

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

    Ranch Dressing ingredients in bowl

    Ranch Dressing ingredients in bowl

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp dried chives
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Ranch Dressing in bottle

Ranch Dressing in bottle

In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. 

I pour mine into an old glass bottle and just keep in the fridge.  If you have kids (or a husband that likes ranch dressing), you will use it pretty quickly.  Shake before serving.


Creole Pork Loin & Pan-Fried Cinnamon Apples

Creole Pork Loin with Fried Cinnamon ApplesI bought a pork loin and was looking for something fast and easy (but still tasty) to make with it for dinner.  I had also recently bought some Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning.  You can find a recipe for it here if you want to make it yourself instead of buying it.  I will probably make my own in the future, but just bought this on a whim when I saw it in the spice section.

I also had some apples that I needed to use and apples go with pork, right?  We filled out the meal with a side of steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and baby-cut carrots.

So, this is what I made…


Creole Pork Loin

  • Pork loin (mine was 1.4 lbs)

    Creole Pork Loin searing in skillet

    Creole Pork Loin searing in skillet

  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil (or whatever oil you prefer)
  • Emeril’s Essence (recipe for making your own)
  • 1 Tbsp liquid for deglazing pan (wine, water, gin, broth, orange juice, apple juice, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp of heavy cream or half/half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Trim the pork loin of any excess fat and silver skin.  Sprinkle pork loin with spice mixture and press it on.  Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or other oven safe pan.   Sear pork loin on all sides in skillet on stove top. Put skillet in oven and bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork loin.  What I can find online indicates that the internal temperature of the pork should be 150°F to 155°F when it is done.

Remove from oven, take pork out of pan and place on plate to rest.  Place skillet back on the stove top over medium heat and use your preferred liquid to deglaze pan.  Then, add cream and let sauce thicken slightly while you stir.  After pork has rested for 10 minutes, slice it and serve with the cream sauce on the side or on top.  It doesn’t make a LOT of sauce, but the flavor is very intense, so you don’t need much.

Pan-Fried Cinnamon Apples

  • 4 small apples, quartered, cored, and sliced

    Cinnamon Apples in pan

    Cinnamon Apples in pan

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey

Prepare apples.  Melt butter in a frying pan and then sauté the apples in the butter until they start to soften.  Sprinkle on cinnamon and honey.  Continue to cook until soft, but nor mushy.  Serve warm.

There was no pork or apples leftovers…both were loved by all the kids.  They did eat their veggie too.  🙂

– Stacey

Creole Pork Loin, Pan-Fried Cinnamon Apples and Veggie Blend

Creole Pork Loin, Pan-Fried Cinnamon Apples and Veggie Blend

Fast & Easy Fruit Sorbet

Fruit SorbetAs we were finishing dinner tonight I said “Hey kids, who wants sorbet for dessert?”  There was a round of “I do!” and less than 15 minutes later, we were all enjoying a bowl of mixed fruit sorbet.

You can make sorbet using your ice cream maker or your freezer and wait for hours, but this is the fastest and easiest way I have found.  And you can make it with any unsweetened fruit that you can find frozen in a bag in your grocery store, something we always keep a variety of on hand for smoothies.

I first saw this technique for sorbet back in the late 1990’s on a show that I really enjoyed on the Food Network called “COOKING LIVE with Sara Moulton”.  She actually cooked an entire meal in 30 minutes on LIVE TV, while taking questions by phone from viewers.  She did this several nights a week.  Anyway, on one of her shows, she made this sorbet using mixed berries, but you can use any frozen fruit.  In her recipe, she used some sugar to taste, but I use a bit of honey.  I have since seen Mark Bittman make sorbet the same way.  So here it is:

Fruit Sorbet

Frozen Dole Mixed Fruit
Frozen Fruit


  • Bag of any frozen fruit
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk (optional)
  • 1-3 teaspoons of honey (to your taste)

Place frozen fruit and optional honey and milk in a food processor and process until smooth.  Serve immediately, or place in freezer until ready to use. This recipe yields 6 servings.

Note:  The milk is just to make the processor run better as it doesn’t run well dry.  You can just let your fruit sit out for a while and partially defrost instead.   Or, instead of milk, you can use water, cream, half/half, yogurt, or any fruit juice such as orange, apple, lime, or lemon.


The fruit I used today was the “Mixed Fruit” from Dole which consists of strawberries,  pineapple, mango, and peaches.  But, I have made it with mixed berries, or just one single frozen fruit.  You can really use any combination of fruits you can think of.  Mike, the girls and I all loved it… as usual.

– Stacey

Fruit Sorbet

Buckwheat Granola – with my kitchen helper Julia

Finished Buckwheat GranolaI have wanted to try making granola for a while now.  We try to have hot breakfasts most mornings, either oatmeal or eggs.  So, we only have cold cereal about once a week, but it would be better if it was homemade, instead of store-bought granola.

I have filed away different granola recipes as I came across them, but this one caught my eye because it included buckwheat, which I had wanted to try in a recipe.  This recipe does still have the standard oats as a base, but I saw some store-bought buckwheat-based granola without oats, so maybe I will adjust this recipe to try that next time. 

The recipe I used was this one at the “Kath Eats Real Food” blog.  She got the recipe from the South Street Inn in Charlottesville, VA. It is not a strict recipe since there are lots of options for nuts and fruits. So, each person that makes it will probably get a “different” granola.

Some ideas for making the granola your own are to personalize the grains, nuts and dried fruits you use.  To get you started, here are some options:

  • Grains: substitute part of the rolled oats with quinoa, wheat germ, sesame seeds, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or steel-cut oats; use all buckwheat and no oats; or use all oats and no buckwheat.
  • Nuts (whole, sliced, slivered or chopped) (preferably raw and unsalted): almonds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, or pine nuts.
  • Dried fruit (chopped if large pieces): dark or golden raisins, figs, papaya, candied ginger, pineapple, mango, apricots, dates, cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, prunes, bananas, unsweetened flake coconut, or cranberries. 
  • Try adding some fruit purée in before you bake it, such as pumpkin, pear, peach, or apple sauce.
  • Try substituting other spices/extracts for the cinnamon/vanilla, such as cloves, nutmeg, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, chinese 5-spice, allspice, cardamom, almond extract, lemon extract, orange extract.  Or, add some cocoa powder for chocolate granola.  Or, substitute part of the honey with molasses. Have fun!

My primary helper for this recipe was Julia, who will be in some of the pictures.  She helped with measuring, dumping, and stirring.  I handled anything that involved knives, the oven and hot pans.

Buckwheat Granola

Mix together in large bowl:

  • 2 cups raw rolled oats (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 1/4 cup whole or coarsely chopped raw nuts (what you like, I used cashews and pumpkin seeds)
  • 3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds


  • 1/4 cup oil of your choice (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used 1/8 cup honey and 1/8 cup real maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp real vanilla

Granola Ingredients

Spreading Granola into Pans

Stir well. Put into metal or glass baking pan.  I used metal pans with silpat liners for easy clean-up.  Julia helped spread it into the pans with clean hands.

Bake at 300 degrees F for one hour stirring every 15 minutes. Color should be light golden brown when finished. Remove from oven.

Immediately, stir in:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups any combination of dried coconut and/or dried fruit of your choice (I used chopped, dried apples and figs)

Dried Fruit for Granola

These will toast a little from being with the other warm ingredients. Let cool completely and put in an airtight container to store. This recipe makes about 5-6 cups.  Enough for at least two breakfasts for our family of six, as Mike is not a breakfast eater.

Finished Buckwheat Granola

I thought it came out great and the kids liked it too.  I had mine as a cold cereal with just milk added as did Leah. Sarah ate hers plain and dry by the handful. Emma and

Buckwheat Granola on plain yogurt

Buckwheat Granola on plain yogurt

Julia put theirs on top of plain yogurt. 

By the way, this granola made the house smell heavenly of cinnamon, honey, vanilla, and coconut while it baked, unlike last week’s kale chips.  🙂

– Stacey

Refrigerator Pickles – Dill made with Cucumbers from the Garden

So, my husband and kids love pickles and while you can get dill ones without lots of junk in them at the store, it is always nice to be able to make things like that yourself.  What is really hard it to find a sweet pickle that doesn’t have high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it.  The only source I have found it our local food Co-op, where there is a farm family selling sweet pickles they make with sugar instead of HFCS.  Sweet pickles will be another day, today’s post focuses on dill pickles made using the refrigerator method.  Note that these must be refrigerated, they are not shelf-stable, as they are not water-bath canned.

I came across this recipe at “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking” and she made is seem so easy, I had to try it.  I have made them twice now.  Once using “pickling cucumbers” from the store; these are the ones I normally buy anyway since they are small and have softer skin so you don’t have to peel them.  This week, I made them using some of the cucumbers from our garden.  The girls are pretty proud that they grew the cucumbers that we are eating.

The recipe I used it really more of a general guide to refrigerator pickles and she gives you lots of latitude about what herbs and spices and even veggies you use.  Basically, what you get from her site are the ingredients and measures for the “pickle juice” and the technique. I was going traditional, so I used cucumbers and chose dill, peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds for my “spices”.

You start with a clean glass jar that has a lid; I used an old pickle jar we had just emptied.  It doesn’t need to be a canning jar, since you are not canning these, but if you have an old one of those, you could use it.  Fill it with the washed cut-up veggies you want to use, in my case sliced cucumbers.  Add your spices, again for me that was dill, whole peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds.  Just eyeball it…this is not science as the longer the pickles sit in the fridge the more flavorful they will get anyway.

Make your “pickle juice” or brine by combining in a medium saucepan and bringing to a boil:

  • 1 cup any kind of vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp. of Kosher or any non-iodized salt

You can add about 1 – 2 tsp. of sugar or other sweetener if you like a sweet pickle, but the above is a standard tart pickle recipe.  Then, pour your hot brine over the veggies in the jar.  Wipe of the mouth of the jar and stick on the lid.  Put it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and you have delicious homemade pickles.  These pickles will still be a bit crunchy like the pickles you can buy in the refrigerator section of the store.  If you want them softer, more like shelf pickles, you could blanch them in your hot brine before putting them in the jar.

My husband and kids did get into them after only 2 days the second time I made them (I didn’t hide well enough in the back of the fridge) and they were still yummy even then.  Wait a week if you can and then enjoy!

– Stacey

Enjoying Refrigerator Pickles

Kale Chips with Dragon Cheese

  • Baked Kale ChipsI have posted about kale chips before. They are a great way to get some healthy greens into your kids, they are crunchy like a chip, they are cheap and easy to make, and they are yummy. What is not to like?

OK, your kitchen does smell like greens cooking while they are in the oven, but there had to be a downside and thankfully, it is something minor.  But, the price can’t be beat, I paid $1.09 for my bunch of kale last night and I often see a bunch for 99 cents.Bunch of Kale

When I posted about kale chips back in May, I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. But, I found that my chips were a bit uneven in their cooking, some were a little overdone and some were a little soft still.  I tweaked the temperature, time, and amount of oil to get a better product, a least in my ancient oven.

Baked Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
  • 1-3 tsp olive oil (or any oil you prefer, I used pecan oil this time)
  • Sea salt, to taste

Removing Kale Leaves from the Ribs

Preheat oven to 250°F.  Rip all the leaves off the kale ribs in large pieces (about 1″- 2″ squares) and rinse and dry the kale. Note: This is a great job to give one of the kids to get them involved in cooking!  I used my salad spinner for this to get at much water off as possible; you do not want your kale soggy and water-logged as it will take a lot longer to crisp in the oven. Toss kale with oil in a large bowl making sure to cover all the surfaces.  It is not a lot of oil, but it needs to be very well-distributed. The kale should glisten, not look greasy and soggy with oil.

Then, sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Arrange kale leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet  or two small ones like mine. I also lined mine with sil-pat sheets for easy clean-up but you could also use parchment paper.

Raw Kale in Pans

Raw Kale in Pans

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crisp with no soft parts.  As they cook, gently shake the pans a bit every 10 minutes or so for even drying.  Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Kale Chip Close-up

Kale Chip Close-up

Baked Kale Chips

Baked Kale Chips

I had an email last time from Kendra, one of my husband’s colleagues, about what she sprinkles on kale chips for her kids…Dragon Cheese powder. She also sent me a recipe for it. So, I made up a batch, sprinkled it on the chips when I added the salt before baking, and it was a hit. I have also sprinkled it on homemade popcorn. It has a salty, nutty, perhaps slightly cheesy taste.

The recipe is originally for making a vegan cheese sauce, but I just used the powder as a topping…have not tried making it into a sauce since we are not vegan and thus can have real cheese when we want it. Kendra noted that the recipe as given makes a LOT, so I cut it in half and I still have a pretty big jar of the stuff. I also used a food processor, not a blender and after grinding the nuts, I just added everything else into the bowl and gave it a few pulses to blend. Here is her recipe:

Dragon Cheese Sauce
(recipe from Kendra)

Dragon Cheese

Dragon Cheese powder in jar


  • 3 cups raw cashew pieces
  • 2 cups either Red Star or Vegetarian Support nutritional yeast (NOT the same as yeast for making bread)
  • 3 tbsp seasoned salt
  • 3 tbsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
  • 3 tbsp of onion powder (NOT onion salt)
  • 8 tbsp of either arrowroot or cornstarch powder.  (For making the sauce, the arrowroot makes it “stringy” unlike the cornstarch.  Since I am not making sauce with it, I used cornstarch.)

Directions: Using a VERY dry blender or food processor, blend the nuts till they are very fine. Then, blend in batches of about 1 cup and then mix in a dry container. You can keep this tightly covered in the frig for about 6 weeks.

To make up, add one heaping 1/2 cup of mix to 1 cup of water and stir over heat till thickened. Use less water and add salsa for queso dip. Pour over hot veggies and/or pasta. Spread on vegan bread and toast for grilled uncheeses.

– Stacey

Kevin’s Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes

Kevin's Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes

Kevin's Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes

Back in May when I posted about out breakfasts, I promised you a pancake recipe using oatmeal.  So, here it is.

I got this recipe from Kevin from our church and he got it from his sister.  Not sure where she got it from.  But, he made them at a VBS teacher’s breakfast and they were great, so I got the recipe.  I have made them several times and they are quite easy and all whole grain.  What I like about it is that it has more oats than flour and all the flour used is whole wheat.  I typically use whole wheat pastry flour.

He made the banana variety and that is also the one I have made most.  The natural sweetness of the bananas is enough so you don’t need any other sweetener, but if making plain, you might want to put in a small amount of honey or maple syrup.  Or just serve with honey or maple syrup.  (the real stuff, not HFCS junk).  You could always add any other fruit such as blueberries or perhaps nuts such as pecans, if you so desire.

The kids and I also like the gingerbread variety a lot.  Cut back on the spices if you like your gingerbread less intense.  Another variation that I have not tried yet would be to add about 1-2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice and a 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin.

Kevin’s Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 cups rolled oats (I used old-fashioned oats)
2 & 1/4 cups milk (try just 2 cups first and add more if needed)
4 eggs (slightly scrambled)
1 Tablespoon oil (I use peanut or coconut oil, but use your favorite)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder (use aluminum-free, like Rumford)

Put oats and milk in a bowl and let soak at least 5 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes is better.  Then, mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Heat a lightly oiled pan and make whatever size pancakes you like.

Kevin's Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes on plate

Kevin's Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes on plate

Variations to basic recipe – add to wet batter with rest of ingredients:

* Add some unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon to taste


* Add 1-2 mashed bananas and some cinnamon to taste (our favorite!)


* Add 1/3 cup molasses and 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger and 1/2 tsp. cloves for gingerbread pancakes

This recipe makes about 15-20 small pancakes (approximately 4″-5″ diameter). They freeze well and heat up well in the microwave.  I usually make a lot at one time and we get 2-3 breakfasts off the batch.

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