Archive for December, 2011

December 17, 2011

Spinach Patties Everyone Loves

I discovered these spinach patties early last year when we were on a grain-free diet. The original recipe from calls for breadcrumbs, but at the time I replaced it with more eggs, pine nuts and grated Pecorino Romano. I’ve made these almost half a dozen times and this was the first time I used breadcrumbs. The patties did hold together better, but I don’t think they added much to their taste. Next time, I may try corn meal. It’s a great recipe to experiment with—just don’t leave out the nutmeg.

My kids like these for snack time, breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner. S prefers to have wrap her patty with a piece of ham. Meanwhile, C sees it as yummy finger food that he runs around the backyard with. I like them best for a quick, nutritious breakfast. I just pop them in the toaster oven to warm them up and give them a little crispiness.

Happy holidays! Enjoy your two-week break from packing lunches. I know I will 🙂  It may be my favorite Christmas gift this year.

Sephardic Spinach Patties (from


3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry, or 20 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
About 1 cup matza meal or fine dried bread crumbs
About 3/4 teaspoon table salt or1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving
1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and, if using, the garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, matza meal, salt, pepper, and, if using, the nutmeg. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more matza meal. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.
2. Shape the spinach mixture into patties 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, with tapered ends. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. In batches, fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.

Sephardic Spinach Patties with Cheese (Keftes de Espinaca con Queso):
Add 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Muenster, Swiss, Gouda, or Cheddar cheese; or 1/4 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese.

Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts (Keftes de Espinaca con Muez):
Substitute 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts for the matza meal.

Italian Spinach Patties (Polpettine di Spinaci):
Add 3/4 cup raisins soaked in white wine for 30 minutes, then drained, and 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts.


December 13, 2011

Lentil Soup

I love rainy days. You know, the kind that makes you want to stay in your pajamas all day, drink hot tea and make a big pot of soup. In Seattle they might be a dime a dozen, but here in San Diego they’re cherished like a double rainbow. At least, by me.

Yesterday morning as the rain pounded down, I reached for the lentils in my pantry and all the vegetables in the back of my refrigerator that have yet to find a purpose. Carrots, potatoes and celery made their way back into the light—and into my Dutch oven, along with a large onion, chopped. I had been craving soup, so I had a hock of uncured ham in the fridge waiting to flavor a pot of lentils, split peas or whatever the legume du jour may be. Usually, I don’t use ham for my soups, since plain broth is healthier. But I sometimes find it difficult to achieve the same depth of flavor without the smoked ham hock. But it’s a delicate balance, because ham can so easily make a soup too salty, which is why I never salt a soup if I’m going to use ham.

For my lentil soup, I sautéed 2 cups of chopped onion, 1 cup of chopped carrots and 1 cup of diced celery in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, two bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme. After stirring for a minute, I added 10 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (if you’re using the ham, you could just use water) and 1 ham hock. I let it simmer for about 1 hour until the ham was tender. I then added 2 cups lentils and 2 chopped tomatoes (trying to use up some of those tomatoes from my CSA). After 10 minutes, I added two chopped Idaho gold potatoes and let it simmer for another 20 minutes. Lastly, I removed the ham hock, cut it into bite-sized pieces and returned them to the soup. I seasoned with some coarsely ground black pepper and and chopped parsley. It was perfect for a chilly day. And for leftovers in S’s lunchbox.

Tags: , , , ,
December 8, 2011

What’s In Your Kid’s Cereal?

Would you feed your kids a Twinkie for breakfast? How about three chocolate chip cookies? No? Well, you might be giving them the equivalent in sugar if you’re feeding them cereal, according to the Environmental Working Group. EWG’s review of 84 popular cereal brands, just released yesterday, shows that only one in four children’s cereals meets the government panel’s voluntary proposed guidelines, which recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight.

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks leads the list of the top 10 worst cereals, at nearly 56 percent sugar by weight. One cup of the crunchy stuff serves up more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie. But Honey Smacks isn’t alone. A one-cup serving of forty-four other popular brands had more sugar than three Chips Ahoy cookies. Here’s a look at the best and worst cereals.


Based on percent sugar by weight

1 Kellogg’s Honey Smacks 55.6%
2 Post Golden Crisp 51.9%
3 Kellogg’s Froot Loops Marshmallow 48.3%
4 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s OOPS! All Berries 46.9%
5 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch Original 44.4%
6 Quaker Oats Oh!s 44.4%
7 Kellogg’s Smorz 43.3%
8 Kellogg’s Apple Jacks 42.9%
9 Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries 42.3%
10 Kellogg’s Froot Loops Original 41.4%

For the full list of all 84 brands, click here.


These cereals are also free of pesticides and genetically modified ingredients:

  • Ambrosial Granola: Athenian Harvest Muesli
  • Go Raw: Live Granola, Live Chocolate Granola, and Simple Granola
  • Grandy Oats: Mainely Maple Granola, Cashew Raisin Granola, and Swiss Style Muesli
  • Kaia Foods: Buckwheat Granola Dates & Spices and Buckwheat Granola Raisin Cinnamon
  • Laughing Giraffe: Cranberry Orange Granola
  • Lydia’s Organics: Apricot Sun, Berry Good, Grainless Apple, Sprouted Cinnamon, and Vanilla Crunch.
  • Nature’s Path Organic: Optimum Banana Almond, Optimum Cranberry Ginger, Corn Puffs, Kamut Puffs, Millet Puffs, and Rice Puffs.

My advice? For breakfast, stick with fruit, oatmeal, eggs and my favorite—bacon. After all, this is a post about sugar, not fat and sodium 😉

December 8, 2011

Honey-Glazed Chicken Drumsticks!

Quick poll: Did you grow up eating and loving drumsticks? Because I remember when drumsticks were the go-to meat for kids, the item on the dinner table that kids would wrestle each other for. Why? It’s the meaty part of the chicken leg with a built-in handle. Natural finger food. What could be better? But now, most children are rarely ever exposed to meat on the bone. The truth is, neither are many parents. Sadly, that means kids are missing out on delicious cuts of meat and knowing where their meat really comes from—yes, an animal (gasp!).

I loved grilled chicken—thigh, wing, drumstick, you name it. The main reason I love it is because I usually grill chicken with both the bone and skin attached. The result is moist, juicy chicken with a crispy skin. I know it’s not politically correct to eat chicken skin anymore, but, really, if you can’t eat it when you’re a kid when can you?

I feel lucky to live in San Diego, because I’m able to grill year-round. Last night, I decided to try a new drumstick recipe from It looked so easy, which marinating typically is, and only required seven ingredients: salt, pepper, five-spice powder, cilantro, sesame oil, garlic and honey. I marinated the drumsticks along with some boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a couple hours and then threw them on the grill and brushed them with honey. The recipe says to grill the chicken for 35 minutes, but for me it was much closer to 15 minutes. While they cooked, I steamed some rice and stir-fried some Chinese green beans.

What was the consensus? S said, “This chicken is so good,” and C said, “I love the chicken. Thank you, mommy!” Isn’t it so satisfying when you try a new recipe and every member of the family likes it?

S went to school this morning with a lunchbox filled with rice, a drumstick, carrots and some seaweed.

Honey-Glazed Chicken Drumsticks (from Food & Wine)


18 chicken drumsticks

2 1/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

3 TB sesame oil

Vegetable oil, for the grill

6 TB honey, warmed


  1. Make 3 crosswise slashes down to the bone on the meaty part of each drumstick. Put the chicken in a large shallow baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, mix the salt, pepper, five-spice powder, garlic and cilantro. Add the sesame oil; stir into a paste. Rub the paste in the slashes in the chicken and spread any remaining paste over the skin. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Light a grill. Lightly oil the grate. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, for about 35 minutes, or until just cooked through. Brush the drumsticks with the honey and grill until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Serve hot.
December 6, 2011

Cider-Braised Pork Chops

It had been too long since I had cooked pork chops. So, when I got this recipe from my big brother, I jumped at the chance to make them. But first I had to run to the grocery store to pick up some apple butter and cider—fall essentials that were missing from my kitchen. A few hours later, the smell of apples and pork was wafting through my house. I served the pork chops and sauce over leftover rice, but it would’ve been equally delicious with mashed potatoes. S had two servings of pork, and C couldn’t shovel the rice and sauce down his pie-hole fast enough.

First, I browned the pork chops in a skillet. Then, I let them simmer covered (in the same skillet) in the oven with a sweet, rich sauce made from apple cider and apple butter. I wanted it to be a one-pot meal, so I added 10 oz. of shredded cabbage to the pan and let it cook alongside the chops and sauce in the oven. But next time, I’ll wait until the chops have been in the oven for 45 minutes before adding the cabbage. That way, there’s still a little bit of crunch to the cabbage when it’s all done. And, I’d choose red cabbage instead to give the dish a little more color. After 90 minutes, the meat was incredibly tender and falling off the bone. If you’re gluten-free I think you could easily skip the flour and thicken the sauce with cornstarch at the end, after whisking in the vinegar, remaining apple butter and parsley.

S took off to school with a rather small serving of leftovers. Guess I’ll have to make more the next time.

Cider-Braised Pork Chops (from

Serves 6


6 bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick

2 TB vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup apple butter

1 cup apple cider

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 tsp cider vinegar

1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat chops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chops in two batches, about 4 minutes per side; transfer to plate.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot and cook onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, flour, and 2 tablespoons apple butter and cook until onions are coated and mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in cider and thyme, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon, and bring to boil. Add browned chops and any accumulated juices to pot, cover, and transfer to oven. Braise until chops are completely tender, about 1½ hours.

Transfer chops to serving platter. Strain sauce, then use a shallow spoon to skim off fat. (I didn’t strain the sauce because I added the cabbage.) Whisk in vinegar, parsley, and remaining apple butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, passing sauce at table.

Make Ahead: Chops and sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 2 days. To serve, heat sauce and chops together over medium heat until chops are warmed through.

December 5, 2011

Beans and Franks You Can Feel Better About

The kids made gingerbread houses yesterday afternoon and we all got so involved that I lost track of time. Before I knew it, it was time for dinner. I needed something on the table—quick! It was a night for beans and franks. But not your mom’s version of it. Something ever so slightly healthier. I had organic baked beans in the pantry and Trader Joe’s apple chicken sausage (free of nitrates and nitrites) in the refrigerator. I poured two cans of beans into a pot and dropped the sausages into a skillet. The kids like it when the sausages get nice and charred. Then, I made a big green salad. All done in less than 30 minutes.

This morning, I packed leftovers for S, including some baby carrots and apple slices to make sure she gets some fruit and vegetables. I also added a cute holiday napkin with a penguin wearing a Christmas hat. It’s almost as good as a little note. She’s happy, I’m happy and lunch is done.

December 2, 2011

The Golden Age of Gluten-Free?

My husband ate my blog post. Literally.

I like to take pictures of all the food I post, but I couldn’t this morning because the leftovers traveled down my husband’s gullet last night while I was snoozing. That also meant no leftovers for S for lunch. So instead of bragging about the delicious Chinese noodles with pork and peanut sauce I made, I thought we’d discuss gluten. (Hopefully, the noodles will return in another post later this month.)

There’s a fascinating, well-reported article in the New York Times this week entitled, “Should We All Go Gluten-Free?” and though it’s pretty lengthy, it’s worth a read. While my family does not maintain a gluten-free diet, I do try to limit everyone’s intake by opting for wheat alternatives like brown rice pasta and rice crackers. Last year, the kids and I went grain-free for six months, which of course eliminated all gluten. Did we feel better? Yes, to some extent. But it was hard to tell what the culprit was, because we were completely grain- and dairy-free.

I considered going gluten-free again after we got home from Portugal because the kids’ eczema had gotten much worse. I couldn’t put my finger on it. While we were away we really didn’t eat that much dairy, which I do know incites C’s eczema. Even S’s eczema, which is usually well under control, was scaly, angry and fiery. The only thing I could come up with was bread. They served it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then, there were the croissants and myriad of pastries. Of course, my kids took every opportunity to indulge. How could I blame them? After all, European bread is something different altogether. It’s so much lighter and fluffier. Is it the result of flour with a significantly higher gluten content? I don’t know. But I do think the gluten is to blame for all the dry patches.

The article in the New York Times talks about the growing prevalence of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and how gigantic corporations, like General Mills, are responding to the need for more gluten-free products in mainstream grocery stores. Is gluten-free here to stay? It sure looks that way.

Are you or your family gluten-free? If so, why? If not, do you think it’s just another fad diet? Let me know.

%d bloggers like this: