Category Archives: "Gastronomic Delights"

Parents Need to Eat Too – Giveaway Winner Announced

A little after 8pm MST we put the names of all commentators in Bean’s Valentine box and Bean drew the winning ticket. Apologies for the incorrect location of the winner. Big oops there. Oh Angelina I’ll be sending you an email shortly. Congratulations.


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Rainbow Love

Bean on the Zip-line Photo Credit: Melissa Haun Photography

Bean is a Valentine Girl. Born on Valentine’s Day, she fully embraces the whole heart deal. Last week when we celebrated her 5th birthday it was not Valentine hearts at the party. Bean requested a rainbow theme,
Bean: I want everything rainbow.
Me: Um, okay.
We’re not exactly the themed party kind of family, more the beer, lots of food, let the kids run wildish kind of party house(I’m surprisingly uptight about a few things in the kids rooms, like please don’t tip everything out and then step on it cos it drives me nuts, so we typically go for outdoors.)

Bean decided on the rainbow theme back in October when her Auntie Green was here and they made a sign for the tree house that Green and Grandpa had been working on – The Rainbow Castle. Given our neighborhood population it seems rather fitting.  There is a picture somewhere of me holding her for the first time with Green in the hospital looking tired and elated and in the background you can almost see the rainbow. Bean is truly a rainbow heart girl. So a rainbow theme it was.

The castle was painted, the Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookies  made(I still want to call it a cake, but Debbie is pretty firm on them being cookies and it is her recipe), that Bean begged me to make made. This time we used apricot preserves and just two pans and both worked great. Bean picked out some rainbow like clothes from her closet and voila, a rainbow themed birthday party.

Photo Credit: Melissa Haun

The photographs were taken by my friend Melissa Haun, who is an amazing photographer and really captured the day. Thanks Melissa.

Remember comments on this post and all posts starting with the Dang it, Parent’s Need to Eat Too post whether about food or not, enter you for the Parent’s Need to Eat cookbook giveaway. The Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookie recipe is available on Debbie’s site, not in the book, but there are plenty of other fabulous recipes and tips in the book.


February 18, 2012 · 4:45 pm

Don’t Worry it isn’t My Cold I’m Giving Away

For those on Debbie Koenig’s Parents Need to Eat Blog Tour. Welcome back to Tucson, Arizona. Yes, there is giveaway information below. 

Three out of four of us have come down with the sniffles and a nice, raspy cough that rattles around the chest. The fourth member of the family is currently on a night time mountain bike ride, just in case you’re wondering who has yet to fall victim. The guilty party who introduced the dreaded virus is now bouncing around enough to go back to the pit of infection and bring home a new virus, leaving me and Fox to barricade ourselves in and steel ourselves with milk for him and soup for me.

Parents Need to Eat Too by Debbie Koenig

One of my favorite soups is a Lentil and Brown Rice soup that Debbie Koenig introduced me to. It’s in her new cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too. It truly is an easy soup to put together when you’re feeling less than stellar, in need of something good and hearty and don’t really want to venture out to get loads of supplies.

Prior to Bean’s aversion to any food that appeared to be a combination of more one than item, we used this soup a lot in the winter. Now, she would turn her nose up at the rice and lentils and occasional tomato daring to display their presence next to one another in her bowl. I could puree it and make it look uniform, but I have an aversion to such behavior. It takes time, but more importantly I want Bean and Fox, when the time comes for him to eat solid foods, to know and appreciate  vegetables (despite making a sauerkraut cake this week for Bean’s birthday .- How’s that for sneaking a vegetable in?)  So we’ve been struggling to get Bean to eat the soup recently.

On Monday night the tide turned. I took Debbie’s recent sharing on her Facebook  page of a tip she found elsewhere and I applied it to her soup and voila, we have heart shaped carrots in Lentil and Brown Rice soup.

Bean was ecstatic about the hearts. It was, after all, the day before Valentine’s which is also Bean’s birthday. The response went something like this when Bean saw the carrots atop the soup.

Hearts, hearts, hearts. I love hearts. Thank you Mummy.

Sweet eh? Then we proceeded to count how many heart carrots everyone got in their soup…did she really get the most? How many were there compared to regular carrots?  She ate the heart carrots, and the regular carrots, and the lentils, and the tomatoes with absolutely no complaint. Fabulous. I’m quite willing to cut a few shapes if it encourages her to eat her vegetables. You might consider it hiding in plain sight, but I’m okay with that. Plus, a math lesson to boot.

One of the aspects of Debbie’s book, blog and Facebook page I truly appreciate is her willingness  and ability to share tips and sources be it for making her foods into baby food or encouraging even the pickest child to enjoy the food you’re cooking (of course the focus is recognizing that you, rushed and harried, do need to eat too). Of course, I can see how great the book is, because it is right next to me and you can’t look because it isn’t even out yet. This sad fact can be changed. Debbie and her publisher, HarperCollins have provided me with a copy to giveaway. Leave a comment here, or/and on any of the posts starting with Dang it, Parents Need to Eat Too and since until 8pm MST February 20th, and I’ll enter your name to a drawing to win a copy of the book. What that means, you can read about my heart stuff, leave a comment about heart stuff and be entered to win. You can leave another comment on a recipe post or a Tucson post and be entered a second time and third time. If that isn’t enough, go over and check the book tour and stack the odds in your favor by commenting far and wide. Yes, there are some big name bloggers on the tour, but don’t forget the smaller ones, the odds are probably better there and there are some gems there. Oh yeah, and if you’re trying for a copy for yourself and perhaps buying one for some friends who are expecting a new baby, pre-order the book before February 21 and receive a FREE Digital Starter Kit including bonus recipes, a gift card, and more.

The coldless one has been back from his night time mountain bike ride for a few hours now, Baby Fox has just polished off his 2:30am feed and now it is time to get a few hours of shut-eye before the five year old wakes.


Filed under "Gastronomic Delights", Domestic Diva

Dang it, Parents Need to Eat Too

I’ve had one of those days. Or should that be a couple of those kind of days. The day was marred by a particularly frustrating trip to a governmental office, picking up a sick Bean early from preschool, and a sweet, but increasingly impatient, Baby Fox along for the ride. On the doorstep when we finally made it home -a sweet brown package. I was thrilled. I love packages. This one contained something particularly spectacular. Inside that plain brown envelope, one of the first copies of my friend Debbie’s first book, Parents Need to Eat Too.
I was part of the recipe tester group for the book (Debbie drew upon a large group of parents of young children to test the recipes) and seeing the book in the flesh, as it were, for the first time was like finally meeting the baby of a friend who had whispered to you tales of doctors visits, shared ultra sound pictures with and hopes for months on end. In the case of this particular baby, there was a much longer gestation than the usual nine months. I’m ridiculously excited for Debbie.

The timing on the arrival of the book couldn’t have been better. Tired, frustrated, with baby and sick preschooler in tow, I needed something quick. Something basic. Something my cranky preschooler might find tantalizing and could be sent in tomorrow’s lunchbox as long as my girl Bean is well enough. Flick, flick to the chapter on One Handed Meals and voila – Broccoli and Cheddar Pinwheels. I’d no flipping idea what to expect, you Americans have some funny names for foods (that’s rich I know, as I’m from the land of spotted dick, toad in the hole and other such gastronomic delights). However, I had all the ingredients.

Broccoli and Cheddar Pinwheels
Makes 8, and doubles well
Cooking time: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
1 pound prepared pizza dough, white or whole wheat
2¹⁄₂ cups finely chopped broccoli, or one 10-ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli, defrosted and finely chopped. If you don’t mind the additional cleanup, you can do the fine-chopping by pulsing in the food processor. It’s important that the pieces be quite small, or you’ll have trouble in the assembly.
1 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, depending on how much you like cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line or grease a baking sheet.
1. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to use it.
2. Steam the broccoli until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then combine broccoli with the Cheddar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. By mistake I steamed the broccoli first and then cut.
3. Roll or stretch the dough on a floured work surface into a large rectangle, about 10 x 14 inches. Don’t worry if you can’t get those exact measurements, but take care not to stretch the dough so thin it rips.
4. Spread the broccoli mixture over about three-quarters of the dough, leaving an uncoated portion at one short side. Begin to roll the dough from the short side covered with the broccoli spread, and keep rolling until you’ve got a nice, neat log of dough.

5. Using a serrated knife or a pastry scraper, cut the log into 8 equal pinwheels. Carefully lay the pinwheels flat on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.
MAKE BABY FOOD: If your baby’s still on purees, reserve a portion of the broccoli-cheese mixture and blend it with a bit of milk or broth. If you’re on finger foods

Simple, straight forward, and with that whole wheat pizza dough, positively healthy. It seems so simple that we should have thought of it before, but we hadn’t. After dinner we brainstormed just what else we could use in a pinwheel. Like this it is just about perfect for Bean, but this got us thinking about adding garlic, sliced mushrooms, different cheeses. What about different types of mustard? The possibilities were endless. Well done Debbie. I think Bean would argue that this meets not only the Parents Need to Eat Too criteria, but also the ‘preschoolers with infant siblings need to eat’ criteria too.

I plan to share another of Debbie’s recipes from the book in the next week or so as part of her virtual book tour. Her publisher, HarperCollins, has kindly sent me a copy to give away in the next week or so, so stay tuned to this space to find out more about chances to win your own copy. If you know that you’re interested in the cook book, perhaps you have it in mind for a shower gift for expectant parents (I’ve preordered a copy for C & S from Antigone Books already, so don’t even think about it the rest of you.) you can preorder the book. Anyone who orders before February 21 receives a FREE Digital Starter Kit including bonus recipes, a gift card, and other stuff. I should probably organize the giveaway before that date.


Filed under "Gastronomic Delights", Domestic Diva

Pride aka Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookies

Debbie Koenig's Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookies
You’re impressed aren’t you? I have to admit I’m pretty impressed too. You should see the Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookie post that inspired it. Debbie‘s rendition is much prettier. Mine was pretty damn yummy though, if not as pretty. I was captured by the ingredient list which, along with chocolate (can’t go far wrong there), included almond paste. I love marzipan and the ilk. Thankfully, I wasn’t put off by her unusual comments that this was a tad fussy. I don’t think it actually is. Well maybe compared to other Debbie recipes, but still. Worth the fuss. Check out the bowls. Beautiful eh?
Debbie Koenig's Full Spectrum Rainbow Cookies

Sidetrack/ January and February are all about rainbows here in the desert. Not in that incredible rainbow-every-single-day Hawaii way, but beautiful subtle rainbows over mountains and desert promising much needed moisture to the desert. We actually have two rainy seasons. The big dramatic monsoon storms bring relief and theater in Summer II (July and August) and a gentler, softer drizzle soaks a parched desert in January and February. Yep, rainbows. We might not get much rain here in the Sonoran Desert, but we get rainbows and even more fabulous sunsets when we do./End Rainbow sidetrack

Back to the baked goods. Debbie is part of the reason I’ve got back into cooking from scratch, or almost scratch. I’m not sure if I ‘got back’ to, or just started. Cooking in England is much more from scratch, at least it use to be, than family cooking here. Somewhere between moving here at 19 years old and post college I got sucked into prepped risottos and eating out. I still use them occasionally.  There were a couple of other reasons for the return to cooking. Seven months spent in Florence, Italy where the produce was phenomenal, the grocery stores new and different and I had more time  (I had more time than ‘just stick it in the microwave’). A year after we returned to the US, I packed in my job and our belts tightened (if only my actual belt could be tightened. It just feels tighter.) and so cooking at home became more important. Debbie’s recipes, especially her Pantry Cooking section, have been used again and again in our house. Her first cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too is about to come out. I’ve got my copy on order from Antigone Books, our fabulous local feminist bookstore. Green and I were testers for the book so I’m excited to see how it turned out. The recipes we tested were fabulous, with one exception, but I think that was because I didn’t follow the instructions.

This rainbow season we’ll be making these Rainbow Cookies/Cake again for Bean, who was born under a desert rainbow sky.

Thank you. Your blog, your recipes brought real food to our family dinners.

ps. I think you might want to change the name to Pride cookies. Several friends of a certain demographic were totally taken with these and renamed them Pride Cake. I even received marriage proposals.


Filed under "Gastronomic Delights", Domestic Diva

Hail Mary Pasta and Ms. Berta

Before I packed in my job last Fall we had some pretty serious budgeting conversations. My salary wasn’t great, but it was something and the loss of it meant we had to tighten our belts. Within our budget the main area with some flexibility was food. Our food costs were astronomic. Each week I would plan out the week, buy the groceries plus even more vegetables, because vegetables are good for you. The vegetables would go to waste before using them. Basically, at the end of the day we were both tired and eating out or eating some already prepared/processed meal was easier.

We’ve cut our food budget by more than a half. I cook a lot more now, but part of that is also about finding recipes that taste great, but are easy. Living in Italy, specifically Tuscany, taught me several really important things about cooking:

1. Simple cooking can be really, really tasty if you chose your ingredients well.

2. Buying the seasonal fruit and veg isn’t just cheaper it is tastier.

One of my go-to dishes is from Debbie Koenig of Words to Eat By, the Hail Mary Pasta. She posted it back in April of 2009 and I think I made it that night and I’ve probably made it at least thirty times since. However, the first time I cooked it when we came back to the US it just wasn’t as good. What did I do wrong? I asked. Ahhhh, the tomatoes. The tomatoes weren’t the greatest. In Italy, they sell vegetables only when they are in season and look at you askance if you ask for something out of season so it was with farm fresh vegetables that I first made the Hail Mary Pasta. The Hail Mary Pasta is incredible with fresh flavorful tomatoes. I’d argue to not make it out of tomato and zucchini season it just spoils it. I didn’t give up and tried again with greater success, when the tomatoes were in season.

Guess what? Tomato and zucchini season is here! See look tomatoes in our back yard are beginning to ripen, our zucchini aren’t quite there yet, but others have already started getting zucchini.

Time for Hail Mary Pasta. We had a special occasion too. A play date with one of our favourite neighbours, Ms. Berta. An opportunity to thank her for looking after the kitties while we were away. Time with Ms. Berta is always fun and fancy. Got to love a friend who will eat her whole meal wearing a fancy mask and tulle. It was a grand success. Of course, we also had chianti (Yes, at lunchtime. What of it?) and gelato from our local real Italian gelato place Allegro Gelato.


Ms. Berta wanted the recipe and so I thought I’d share it with all, Debbie gave me permission, in fact she gave me the updated version which will be coming out in her first book, Parents Need to Eat Too published by Harper Paperbacks. I’ve known Debbie for nigh on 6 years. It was through an online community that I found her and her blog, and also got to be one of the recipe testers in her new book. Debbie’s recipes make up the go to recipes in our household. The book comes out in January 2012 and I can’t wait to see it and try out more recipes. Consider this a sneak peak to her book. I have another to share when my mint is ready.

NB. The only difference I ALWAYS make is use Parmiganno Reggiano rather than Parmesan. I think Debbie does too, but it does cost a little more. I think it is worth every penny. Debbie has a fabulous Luxe on a Budget post on Weight Watchers about ingredients worth spending a little extra on which I love.

Hail Mary Pasta

Serves 4 to 6

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

This was born out of desperation, a last-minute realization that Stephen and Harry were on their way home from the playground and would be expecting dinner, pronto. As long as you cut it into small, quick-cooking pieces, you can substitute almost any vegetable for the zucchini—whatever’s in the fridge, threatening to spoil—but don’t skip the tomatoes. The sweet juices they release are the base of the sauce.

2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes

2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

One 12- to 14.5-ounce box whole-grain pasta (I like Barilla Plus penne)

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

1. Put a big pot of salted water over high heat; cover it to make it boil faster.

2. Toss everything but the pasta and the cheese into a rectangular baking dish and stir. Put the dish in the oven before the water boils, if you can manage it.

3. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

4. While the pasta is cooking, give the baking dish a hearty shake every 5 minutes. If you’re lucky, the tomatoes will burst before the pasta’s done. If not, drain the pasta and put the colander over the pasta pot, then put the pot’s lid on top of the pasta to keep it warm.

5. When the tomatoes burst and look lusciously goopy, the sauce is done. Pour a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water into the baking dish and stir it around, to get all the good stuff off the bottom and sides. Pour the pasta back into the pot, dump in the sauce, and stir. If it seems too dry, add the rest of the reserved cooking water.

6. Serve topped with the grated Parmesan cheese. Hail Mary.

MAKE BABY FOOD: This one’s all good—either pureed or as finger food; the only concern for finger food would be if the tomato skins are too tough for a wee’un. Depending on which pasta you use, you may want to give it a quick chop to prevent the possibility of choking.


“Oh my goodness, we loved this pasta. The sauce was really nice, not too heavy, not too oily, but tasty and refreshing. My husband is picky, doesn’t like vegetables or pasta salads so I was worried that he might not like this. Turns out that he loved it. It wasn’t too difficult to chop up the zucchini, and it was nice to throw together the vegetables, put them in the oven and let them sit tight while I worked on the rest of dinner. So, easy, delicious and healthy.” –Monica W., mom of one, St. Louis, MO


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Trish’s ‘Warm Down to Your Toes’ Red Lentil Soup

Grey skies with hint of blue
Winter nights are cold in Tucson. No really, bloody cold. Just not holy crap Scotland cold. A couple of nights ago the temperatures dropped down to 23 degrees Fahrenheit. My resolve to not turn the heating on until Solstice is gone. The water pipes to the swamp cooler are also shot. And water is pouring off the roof. My worries about baked chickens in the coop have flipped to worries about frozen chickens. Could I knit them little sweaters? Do Brussels Sprouts get frost bite?

In honor of these frosty times I share Trish’s fabulous Red Lentil Soup with a few modifications because I’m not good about following recipes.

Olive Oil (a few glugs as my online friend Debbie would say)
Onion – chopped
Approx 3 cloves of garlic – chopped
Red Bell Pepper chipped
A couple of cans of tomatoes or one can and that bunch of tomatoes in the fridge that aren’t going to be used before they go off otherwise.
2 cups of lentils rinsed and sorted
Tablespoon of curry powder (Oh, how my Indian/Thai cooking teacher would go off on me about this if she knew)
Tablespoon of dried fennel seeds
8 cups of veg. broth

1. Saute onion until soft not brown, then add garlic.
2. Add red peppers and tomatoes in their juice
3. Add tbsp of curry and fennel seed each
4. Wait for fennel seeds to do whatever it is they do and start smelling spectacular
5. Add lentils and broth
6. Bring to boil and simmer until lentils are soft (approx. 1/2 hour)
7. Dip toes in to get warm. Just kidding, consuming via mouth much better idea.

ps. Don’t worry, this British woman isn’t going to subject you to loads of recipes. I know what the commonly held incorrect belief is about British food.


Filed under "Gastronomic Delights", Domestic Diva