Tag Archives: Food

From Garden To Plate: Zucchini and Tomatoes

An important person in my life asked me some time ago about my goals for the next five years. One of them was (and still is) that I would like to grow more of our food. I passionately believe that being connected to our food–especially by planting, nurturing, and harvesting our own bounty–helps us to make more mindful decisions about what we consume. And for children, the fun of digging in the dirt and helping the Earth bring forth her fruit, is often enough to help them overcome some of their prejudices against eating things that look distinctly like bunny food by the time they get to the table.

Due to a move, our garden space this year was smaller than in the past, but significant in that it has timed sprinklers, and therefore, consistent watering (plants need water!). We filled it primarily with basil, chives, oregano, and mint, some just-for-fun flowers, and a few vegetable plants. I’ve never had luck growing bell peppers where we live, and this year was no different. Our pepper plant produced three tiny, shriveled, anemic-looking green bells that still remain on the stalk.

We did, however, grow a great little crop of tomatoes and one, massive, zucchini.

Luke and I did the harvesting together. I loved watching him gently push back the leaves and vines and stalks to reach inside, and then carefully place tomatoes in his colander. We compared the different sizes and degrees of wrinkly-ness, admired their deep red hue, and shared in some general mutual appreciation. Of course, we also tasted a few.

He had to heave the zucchini up and carry it with both hands. It was big.

While we picked things, we talked about the recipes we would be preparing: tomato and basil salad, zucchini bread muffins, and sauteed zucchini. I make a point to do this in order to help start them thinking about eating what we’ve grown, and to help get that connection between garden and plate crackling in their young hearts.

I’ll be honest here. The kids were all more excited about the chocolate zucchini bread muffins (cupcakes, really) we were planning to make than the other things. But my favorite turned out to be the salad; sun-warmed tomatoes paired with fresh basil and a little olive oil is a quintessential summer flavor combination, and something I always look forward to and savor as we roll into fall.

This particular late-summer salad rounded out a dinner of salmon, broccoli, and bulghur (a food that the “l”-challenged members of this family…ahem…little boys, really enjoy saying) with dried fruit and cardamom (YUM).

The following day we started in on the zucchini, shredding most of it to make muffins. Something new I learned about giant zucchini: they have giant seeds, too. Giant seeds that you really shouldn’t bake into muffins. (Aside: I’m always amazed at how much zucchini can disappear into a baked good. Was this phenomenon the inspiration for Jessica Seinfeld’s popular book?) While the muffins were a hit, they were also pretty sugary. Next time I think I’ll try these zucchini fritters.

Luckily Will was available to help pick out seeds and cut the remainder of the oversized vegetable. He cooked it up with some Bragg’s to go along with our dinner of black-eyed peas and flax-sesame cornbread. This eager boy is just beginning to show a real interest in cooking, and I enjoy teaching him how to cut and chop and saute!

Involving kids in the process of cooking their food is another way to help them develop a connection to what they are eating. Feeling pride and ownership over the meal goes along way toward food acceptance. Its also a really nice way to spend time talking and laughing with them!

All in all, our tomato and zucchini harvest made for a couple of days of good garden-to-plate lessons, and some tasty food! Next year I’ll try for even more edibles, and the young growers and chefs will be a little older. In the meantime, we’ll harvest from our local farmer’s market and the produce section at the grocery store, and we’ll continue cooking and eating together and having FUN!

I’m trying to use up all of last week’s food before the weekend: roasted sweet potatoes, baked salmon, quinoa with red peppers, and kale/spinach salad with radishes. Not too shabby for a Wednesday afternoon!

White Bean, Olive And Thyme Spread Recipe

This sounds really tasty! I can’t wait to make it; I think my kids will love it for dipping chips or veggies. From Savvy Vegetarian:

White Bean, Olive And Thyme Spread

White Bean, Olive And Thyme Spread is a sample recipe from ‘Cooking Vegan’ by vegan dietitian Vesanto Melina, and vegan chef Joseph Forest.

My tasters loved it and inhaled it along with any cracker-like food. Quick & simple to make, this olive spread recipe will make you forget that hummus even exists.

Total prep & cook time: 2 hrs

5 Servings

Nutrition Data, 1/2 Cup Serving: 272 cal, 29g carb, 10g fat, 281mg sodium, 11g fiber, 10g protein


2 1/2 Cups cooked or canned white beans, rinsed

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped green or black olives

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Put the beans, lemon juice, oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth

Add the olives and parsley and process until evenly distributed, about 5 seconds

Transfer the spread to a bowl or covered container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and deepen.

Cooking Tips:

Common white beans, such as cannellini (white kidney), great northern, and navy beans, are used in casseroles and soups and are particularly tasty when baked with tomato sauce. Here, they are used to make a delectable spread that can be served with crackers or raw vegetables. The flavor of this mineral-rich spread will deepen if it is made a couple of hours before serving.

Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, White Bean, Olive, and Thyme Spread will keep for 4 to 5 days.

via White Bean, Olive And Thyme Spread Recipe.

Banana Oatmeal Blueberry Get-Out-The-Door Muffins

Mmmmm…..the smell of breakfast.

Faced this morning with a surplus of rapidly ripening Costco bananas and a freezer full of last summer’s blueberries, I set out to make a large batch of breakfast muffins…..that I could return to the freezer for later.

Admittedly, things get a little hectic around here before we leave for school, and sometimes, sometimes Evie takes her breakfast to eat in the car (okay, at least once a week). I need a few more quick–and not too messy if it happens to go out the door in a napkin–breakfast foods.

So voilá. A large batch of freezer-ready muffins, chocked full of fruit and oatmeal and breakfasty goodness. If you try these out let me know what you think!

Banana Oatmeal Blueberry Get-Out-The-Door Breakfast Muffins
Makes 30 muffins

Per Muffin: 123 calories, 20 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm fat, 2 gm protein.

(Note: Reducing the amount of sugar by half would reduce carbohydrate to 17 gm. You can also use whole wheat flour to replace up to half the amount given for some additional fiber.)

1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup rolled oats, regular or quick-cooking
2 cups (about 4 large) bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 T lemon zest
2 cups flour
¼ cup fresh ground flaxseed
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (or use muffin cups) muffin tins.

Combine oats and milk in a small bowl and set aside to soften.

Combine mashed bananas and sugar in medium bowl. Stir in melted butter, followed by eggs, and then milk. Add lemon zest, stir, and set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Combine well.

Add softened oatmeal to the wet ingredients and mix well. Pour wet ingredients onto flour mixture and fold a few times. Add blueberries and fold again, until just combined. Do not overmix.

Fill muffin cups ¾ full and bake for 20-22 minutes, until browned on top. Cool completely on wire rack or dish towel. Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Dinnertime Drama

I was thinking about this photo the other day during a relatively peaceful dinner with my kids. I think we were having grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. I snapped this grainy photograph of Luke, then only 4 years old, nearly a year ago during a particularly frustrating episode of what I have dubbed Dinnertime Drama. It was when the idea of a family-life/diabetes blog first blinked into the atmosphere of my creative musings. Surely, I had thought, other families must have similar challenges. Why not share mine? At the very least, writing about moments such as these might help to quell the desperation I sometimes feel as a single parent trying to toe my own line.

Some context–Luke was diagnosed with diabetes just 6 weeks shy of his second birthday. His diet still consisted, in large part, of Cheerios, applesauce, yogurt, noodles, and breastmilk. When he returned home from the hospital several days later with two terrified parents who were just learning how to wield a syringe, there wasn’t much thought as to what he was eating so much as whether he was eating enough to fend off scary middle-of-the-night (or anytime, really) hypoglycemic episodes. The thing about injection therapy is that there’s not much room for finicky toddler food-refusal power plays when you have blood glucose-chomping long-acting insulin on board. And a 25-lb child who didn’t show symptoms of hypoglycemia until he fell into the 30’s. So it often went like this:

“You don’t want to eat that yummy couscous with steamed carrots Mommy made you?

But Mommy just gave you some insulin. Don’t you want to at least try it?

Well, how about some more Cheerios and yogurt then?”

That’s a lot of power to give a 2-year-old.

And so it went for two more years. Sure, there were a few more foods he learned to enjoy, but our opportunity to really introduce new foods and easily influence his food choices had passed with the last of his beta cells. Finally, I decided that enough was enough. Luke would no longer get a free pass to eschew unfamiliar or less-kid-“friendly” (more on that subject another time) foods at mealtime. And the time was right; his food intake was getting more predictable, his episodes of hypoglycemia less frequent, less severe, and more obvious, and most importantly he started insulin pump therapy.

The flexibility of pumping allows me to dial down the amount of insulin he receives if, say, he refuses to eat his dinner of sweet potatoes and black beans. So I instituted some new dinnertime expectations. Namely, that everyone would be required to at least try the things on their plates. No one would be served something different than what the whole family ate. And no more routine bedtime snacks. Which brings us back around to the photograph of Luke, above.

I had prepped all the kids beforehand about our new mealtime guidelines. We had talked about the importance of healthy eating and variety, and trying new things. We sang “Party In My Tummy” and did a silly dance. I served up what I thought would be a fairly innocuous meal–pretty cool (I thought) purple carrots from the farmer’s market, wild rice, and chicken apple sausage. No unfamiliar sauces, no foods mixing or otherwise touching each other on the plate, nothing green or leaf-like for this first run.

But my inner resolve began to crumble when he broke into tears at the sight of the foods he was expected to let pass over his lips. Big, pathetic, puppy-dog tears coupled with a Momma-Why-Are-You-Doing-This-Awful-Thing-To-Me expression. The other kids were relieved that this first night of “trying new foods” was actually going to result in a full belly, and were ready to move onto dessert in a flash. Sitting alone at the dinner table intensified Luke’s woefulness and all I could do to cope was to stealthily take a picture with my phone. Hopefully, I thought, I will be able to look back at this photo and see how far we’ve come from this moment.

And we have.

One of his favorite foods now is the aforementioned tomato soup. He eats some of his sweet potatoes and black beans.  I get a little thrill every time he tries something new and his eyes light up with surprise and relief. One thing that I’ve learned about Luke is that he protests changes loudly and passionately, and then eventually he will acquiesce. He no longer reacts as if I’m trying to poison him when I put vegetables on his plate. And while he still grimaces and follows bites of unfamiliar foods with gulps and gulps of water, he does try things. We have a long way to go before I will proclaim him a “good eater,” but I will voice my ideals and maintain expectations, keep things positive, and continue to persevere.