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Archive for the 'cooking' Category

“It looks a little disgusting, but tastes good.”


One of my favorite dishes, growing up, was a side of sauteed spinach with shallots.
It’s a basic, no-frills recipe that tastes delicious.

All you do is pour two tablespoons of coconut oil (any vegetable oil will do, but coconut oil makes it swoon-worthy) into a heavy-bottomed pan, and when the oil heats up, add a teaspoon of mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter, add half a cup of finely chopped shallots, and two slit green chilies. Wait for the onions to become translucent, about three minutes. To this, add three cups of chopped spinach and cook it down till it looks to be (sadly) about 1/4 of its original quantity. Season with salt. It tastes great with white steamed rice.

I know I am not very scientific in my recipe telling. But I will provide you with the White House Chef Cristeta Comerford’s variation (as I like to call it) of this recipe, which the New York Times recently published. I tried it out last week, and although one is a sauteed dish and the other a soup, they taste curiously alike.

My 8-year-old daughter’s response was equally curious:
“It looks a little disgusting, but tastes good.”

The White House No Cream Creamed Spinach

2 pounds baby spinach, washed and cleaned
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. Blanch half a pound of spinach in salted, boiling water. Immediately, “shock” the blanched spinach in a bowl of iced water. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Puree in a blender. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent. Add the rest of the spinach leaves. Toss and saute until wilted. Fold in the spinach puree. Season with salt and pepper.

Posted by Swapna Venugopal on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 1:30 pm |

Last little bit of sweetness


I’m sure the last thing you want after over-indulging this holiday season is another cookie recipe, but this proved so delicious and so wonderfully easy to make with kids, I thought I’d toss it out there so you can make one last batch before swearing off sweets in your 2009 diet.

From Gale Gand, buttermilk as the secret ingredient. Click here for details.


Photo by The Associated Press

Posted by Katie Ryan O'Connor on Sunday, January 4th, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
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A family tradition of cooking together


A coworker used the term “food overdose” this morning to describe the feeling she had when she got up hungry but not interested in eating after yesterday’s big bash.

I thought that was a perfect description for those of us fortunate enough to have a big feast on Thanksgiving. And where others might use the description “family overdose” for the same after-holiday lookback, it was a pleasant time for our family even though my in-laws couldn’t make the 500-mile trip that has become our family tradition. We just took their change in plans in stride.

My oldest and I invaded the kitchen early yesterday to make dessert. My mother-in-law is a pie specialist and my oldest seems to have inherited her light touch. Since we would be without our expected influx of sweets, we debated doing something different for our after-turkey time, but quickly determined that we wanted to keep to our traditions. So while I peeled apples and searched the pantry for two cans of pumpkin I knew I had in there somewhere, my oldest brought out the Betty Crocker Cookbook and looked up the directions for both apple and pumpkin pie. As a nod to expanding our offerings, I decided on a tray of baklava.

I think of all the Thanksgiving traditions, cooking together is one of the best. When my babes were younger, I would put them to work grinding nuts, peeling carrots and potatoes and (under supervision, of course) chopping celery and other ingredients for stuffing and our vegetable dish. Now that they’re older, I can leave some of the preparation to them entirely.

Eventually they’ll be off on their own and creating their own traditions. I hope that cooking together will be one of them. Working with my daughter reminded me of the many good times I had in my mother’s kitchen, and every time I took out a pot that used to be hers, or added a side dish that once graced my parents’ table, I was thankful for the time I had with my parents and the laughter and good food we once shared. I hope that’s a legacy I pass on to my own children — a chance to be thankful for present comforts and memories.

Posted by Randi Weiner on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 11:15 am |


Off-beat Turkey Day traditions


What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? 

A nice big turkey, pumpkin pie, football, family, more pumpkin pie, all those great leftovers, OK the last slice of pumpkin pie if no one else is going to take it…

It’s one of my favorite holidays. Everyone celebrates it, there is no mad rush to the mall because you forgot the Baby Alive, and there’s always some reminder on the table of your family’s unique history.

We usually spend Thanksgiving close to home, with my husband’s family, given my folks are a good 5 hours away and most of my brothers and sisters are scattered around the northeast. We have a great, great time, but a little part of me misses one of the Ryan family’s most unusual Thanksgiving traditions — Grandma’s lime Jell-O mold.

It’s not just any lime green Jello mold. No, this is lime Jell-O made in a Bundt pan with apples, celery and walnuts magically suspended throughout.

As a kid I thought it was just the most amazing, delicious thing. How did Grandma get everything to float in there? Sweet, crunchy and jiggly all at the same time.

Sure, some of you are thinking this is just plain gross (or wonder if we also skinned squirrels on the back porch with cousin Gomer) but I assure you, ours was not the only family to feature this sort of Jell-O concoction at the harvest table.

I haven’t subjected my in-laws to it — yet.

What’s your strange but beloved Thanksgiving tradition? What do you remember most from your childhood Thanksgivings?

Posted by Katie Ryan O'Connor on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 at 10:29 am |
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Feast your eyes!


Thanksgiving is just a week away, and I’m looking for inspiration to carve out a menu.

Loyal readers of my posts (yeah, the two of you) know that I run a vegetarian household, and will not be stuffing a turkey.

We’ve invited a couple over (who are also vegetarian and therefore will not be bummed by the missing traditional centerpiece) for Thanksgiving dinner.

Every year, I find myself cooking up new plans for a tasty centerpiece dish. We’ve tried Tofurkey (Tofu Turkey) before and found it not to be very appetizing. So this year, I’ve settled on Basil Pesto Lasagna.

Here’s what I’m planning (both appetizers and desserts will be store bought):

(And because this is a blog about kid nutrition, let me quickly add that my kids love every item on this menu!)

•Spincah puffs

•A thick harvest soup (made with onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, pumpkin and V-8 juice).
•Basil pesto lasagna.
•Spicy roasted red potatoes with garlic.
•Roasted asparagus with Parmesan cheese.
•Mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives.
•Basmati rice pulav with carrots, beans and corn, topped with cashews and raisins.
•A spicy coconut milk stew with potatoes, carrots and tomatoes.
•Raita–a bowl of yogurt into which I add diced cucumber and freshly chopped cilantro.

• Pumpkin pie
•Cranberry tart

Suggestions for future centerpiece dishes, anyone?

Photo Credit: Seth Harrison, The Journal News

Posted by Swapna Venugopal on Thursday, November 20th, 2008 at 12:11 pm |

Jon and Kate plus…meatballs?


My enduring love of reality TV is not something I’m particularly proud of, but I always find in between all the horrifying preening and only-in-America emotive TMI, there is something useful, OK maybe just interesting, to take away.

Consider Tim Gunn of Project Runway. Have you ever encountered a sweeter, more calming figure? Watching him, hand resting thoughtfully on chin, gently encouraging an overwrought designer to “be your own editor” is like chamomile tea through the tube for me. 

And sometimes reality TV is great for reminding you of just how easy your life is compared to some. Jon and Kate Plus 8 falls squarely in that camp.

I’m sure you’ve  heard the story. This Pennsylvania couple has twins, then tries to get pregnant again and ends up with sextuplets. It’s insanity times 8. 

But what I love is how it makes three kids under 7 — which is what we have — seems so easy, so quiet, so calm. 

I’m also struck at how much the kids love, love, love having days alone with Mom and Dad. They simply can’t stop smiling. Jon and Kate allow them to choose whatever itinerary they’d most enjoy and they head off together, a blissful and rare outing as a family triumvirate.

A huge chocolate milkshake with lunch? Perfect. Ear piercing for one of the older girls? No problem.


It’s easy to forget amid all our day-to-day stresses how infectiously joyful the sight of happy kids can be. 


With that playing in the back of my mind, I decided to, at least for now, try the more challenging kid-cooking projects just one-on-one. I love to cook with my kids, but sometimes having to mind three pairs of hands and a bag of flour amid cries of “but her measuring cup is bigger!” is just too much drama for this mama.


So the other day, while the oldest was in school and the baby was napping (I wasn’t playing hooky, I promise — I work weekends so I have time off during the week), me and my almost-5-year-old tackled her most ambitious project to date — homemade meatballs and sauce. She did great! So careful mixing together the meat, the bread crumbs, the parsley and onion, expertly rolling it into little balls. We had a blast.

I actually got a bit emotional. I can only describe the sensation as a little catch in the heart when you realize you are doing something that women for centuries before you have done and also derived enormous comfort from, that place in time where domesticity feels nothing like drudgery. When the act of creating or giving sustenance feels like opening a gift and it cost you nothing.

I used to feel that way when they were babies, nursing them in the middle of the night, alone in a quiet living room, the TV on mute, throwing off just enough blue glow to light our way back to the crib. That’s not to say there weren’t blazing moments of impatience at the baby who wouldn’t nap more than 15 minutes at a time or those days when you believed in the core of your being that you were the only woman on Earth who couldn’t do this parenting thing right. There were just moments when I got it. When I realized this time was as powerful as it was fleeting and it needed to be recognized.

So there we were. A mother in a quiet kitchen on a cloudless late summer afternoon teaching her little girl how to cook, laughing at messy hands, wiping onion tears away with a little kiss.

Posted by Katie Ryan O'Connor on Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 10:51 am |
| | 1 Comment »


Dal à la Obama


“I wanna try the dal Obama makes,” said my 7-year-old daughter yesterday, when she heard about the presidential candidate’s dal making prowess and “desi” bona fides.

The San Fransciso Chronicle reported Sunday that while addressing a group of largely Indian and Pakistani supporters at a Frisco fundraiser, Obama declared, “Not only do I think I’m a desi, but I am a desi.”

The desi (one from our country, in Hindi) then went on to talk about his expertise in cooking dal (lentils), while admitting to not being an expert at making naan, the Indian bread.

“Somebody else made the naan.” he said, during the fundraiser that netted a record $7.8 million.

In India, where many families have been vegetarian for generations, dal- a good source of iron, folate and protein- figures prominently in most meals.

So when Obama talked about his affinity for dal, it obviously struck a chord with desis of all generations.

I am truly impressed that not only is The One down with our lingo and cuisine, but also has enough sense on where to draw the line. If he had said he was an expert naan maker, he would have been booed out of the auditorium. No desi worth his salt makes naan at home. It would be like making bagels at home.

Excuse me while I serve my family some arugula with my dal fry.

Posted by Swapna Venugopal on Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 11:23 am |
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Can mushrooms contaminate spaghetti?


To listen to my three offspring, the mere whiff of a mushroom anywhere near the spaghetti sauce is cause for concern.tjndc5-5b19lmhvz35nlmsgg40_original-2-2.jpg

The mushrooms might (horrors!) end up in with the tomatoes and peppers and onions and whatnot. That would make the entire dish inedible, contaminated by fungus (you know, mom, the stuff that grows in the school showers) and therefore deadly.

I’ve tried the reverse-psychology bit. “You know, you’re not allowed to eat any mushroom you find in this dish — you have to give them to me or your dad” so far hasn’t borne any fruit. I do, however, get all the mushrooms, which is a win for me.

My oldest says she doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms. This one eats sushi and has no trouble with eel or octopus, by the way. She doesn’t like shrimp for the same reason, which gets an eyebrow raise from my son, who also won’t eat mushrooms but will eat shrimp. The youngest — won’t eat any of the above, of course: not sushi, not mushrooms, not shrimp.

I’d probably have more coin with insisting the pack eat mushrooms if I didn’t know where such an aversion came from. I won’t eat pepperoni on my pizza and won’t even eat a piece if the pepperoni has been removed. It contaminates the cheese, frankly.

Mushrooms, anyone?

Journal News file photo: Broad portobello (top), tiny enokis (right), tan creminis (right), umbrella-shaped stittake (bottom left), funnel-shaped chanterelle (center) and white button mushrooms (left).

Posted by Randi Weiner on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 at 5:23 pm |

A jar of Nutella


I went grocery shopping with my oldest last weekend at one of the big warehouse stores and we passed a display of enormous jars of Nutella.

tjndc5-5b1wggkiqdym8mi3gqo_original-2.jpgMy daughter informed me that a lot of the chefs featured on The Food Channel use Nutella and that she and her college roommate bought a jar once upon a time and that it was a pretty good thing.

I’ve never tasted it, so I suggested we buy a jar and see where we could use it. Maybe, I said, it would taste good drizzled over chicken … at which time my oldest almost fell over laughing.

It’s a dessert spread, she informed me. It would be like drizzling chocolate over chicken.

I looked serious and nodded, as if she had convinced me of the error of my ways. We decided instead to see if it would work as a filling for a rolled cookie we make for the holidays similar to rugulach but with a softer shell.

Actually, I’m fond of mole sauce, which has a chocolate base and tastes very nice on chicken thank-you-very-much. But I’m willing to take a hit in the interests of amusing my child and letting her feel superior.

It reminded me of all those similar conversations we had when she was a very young child and had to ‘splain to her mom that the barking animal was a dog, not a cat, because only dogs bark.

And — surprise! — I do know what Nutella is. But don’t tell my oldest. I wouldn’t want to spoil her fun.

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Photo illustration by Algerina Perna / Los Angeles Times

Posted by Randi Weiner on Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
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This all sounds great, even though I doubt I’ll ever actually do any of this


I love the concept of cooking and introducing one’s children to new foods in fun ways.

But let’s face it, I’m just not that kind of girl.


Take those beautiful kitchens with the cooking island in the middle with the rack hanging from the ceiling with all the pots and pans hanging from it, everything all spotless and dust-free and fantastic.

Love. It.

I’ve always wanted one of those kitchens.

Of course, the idea that I’d actually use said kitchen is pretty funny to most folks who know me, not least of all my husband. Though I am really good at making seafood (I lived in South Florida for six years) and step in whenever we get shrimp, scallops or the like.

So when friend and fellow blogger Linda Lombroso pointed me toward the In the Motherhood site the other day, specifically to the recipes of Arlen Gargagliano, a chef and cookbook author (and mother of two) who lives in New Rochelle, my first reaction was, “cool!”

And it is cool. Gargagliano shares all sorts of ideas that sound easy and quite doable. Read more of this entry »

Posted by Amy Vernon on Thursday, April 10th, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
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