While Dad’s Away…Cheese Please!

My husband sometimes travels for work.  When he’s gone from the dinner table my kids like to imagine what he’s eating.  This is pretty funny.  They’ve even taken to talk like him.  This just sounds like a low pitch troll.  These days they’re guessing pretty right on with fish.  When we reconvene, he goes over his meals and the kids decide who wins.  “I said fish!”  “Yeah, but I said salmon and that was exact!”


Since my husband isn’t eating cheese these days when he’s gone we indulge.  My vegan sister has introduced us to fake cheese like Daiya, which is not bad.  But for certain foods I’d rather just skip making it or make it when my husband is out of town.  Thus Mac and Cheese night for the kids and I.  Now this is not the box version.  We’re making real cheese and pasta (see recipe).  Usually it’s not macaroni shaped but tortelli or penne or bow tie.  Whatever we’re in the mood for.  This is a great recipe I got on Real Simple’s app, which I like for quick inspiration while shopping in the grocery store.


If he’s gone two nights there will be pizza (see recipe).  We sometimes make an extra pie for dad without cheese which can be good too.  We even like pesto with smoked salmon and capers on pizza.  But when it’s kids and I it’s a cheese pizza with olives, half pesto, half red sauce.

Is there any food you and your kids indulge in while your spouse is gone?

Here’s what I’m waiting to make next time he heads out … Lasagna Roll Ups.


Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry

This recipe is courtesy of Michelle Stern owner and teacher of What’s Cooking, children’s cooking classes.  Michelle is great at getting the kids involved, both having fun and learning to cook.  This recipe is fun for a large family Sunday supper or for a team of hungry kids.

Makes 12 rolls

2 cups pasta sauce, homemade or jarred, without added sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 large cage free organic eggs

3 cups low-fat ricotta cheese (rBGH free)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (rBGH free)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (rBGH free)

4 ounces fresh organic baby spinach leaves, chopped, about 3 cups

12 cremini mushrooms, sliced, about 1 1/2 cups

12 lasagna noodles (10 x 2 inch with curled edges) boil extra to allow for breakage)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce in bottom of an 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish to coat bottom.

Cook lasagna noodles according manufacturer’s instructions.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and lay noodles on cutting board or work surface in a single layer until ready to use.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until mixed.

Place a lasagna noodle in front of you. Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture along the entire length of the noodle.  Top with spinach and mushrooms and sauce, as desired.

Carefully roll up the noodle and place it (with the curly side up) in the prepared baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over the tops and between rolls and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover the dish with tented foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for additional 10 – 15 until cheese and melted and heated through.

Kids Korner:

Michelle has some good tips for empowering children to help with this recipe:

  • Let child use an egg slicer to slice mushrooms
  • With supervision, let older children snip spinach into pieces with kitchen scissors.  Or tear into little pieces with clean fingers.
  • Give children a rotary grater to grate cheese (and protect little knuckles)
  • Have children assemble and roll lasagna rolls, and stack in the pan.




The Stanford Report – Much To Do Over Nothing

So I learned of the Stanford report in the NY Times claiming organic food is no healthier than conventional, from a friend who forwarded it to me after her father (a doctor) sent it to her.  She wanted to know what I thought given my advocacy for children and families eating organic.  I didn’t get too worked up but said the study actually says pesticides were found at higher levels than conventional, and acknowledged most people if feeding children would err on the side of caution.

The fact that the nutritional value is the same is not surprising or new.  An apple is an apple.  There would be the same nutrients and vitamins.  However the difference, and I think importance, is the levels of pesticides and chemicals.  Thus an apple with pesticide is different than one without. It seems more of a food safety issue than a nutritional one.

I made a sarcastic remark to my  friend’s father  (not an organic advocate) that trusting the FDA in terms of pesticide safety levels would be like going back to days of the FDA saying smoking wasn’t bad for you and colleges passed them out in dorms (that’s when my mom smoked).  Now ironically one of the scientists in the study is being criticized for conducting studies for tobacco companies 35 years ago.  Ironic?  Coincidence?  Also I found it interesting that a day after I read the Stanford study there was a new EPA ban on an apple pesticide, azinphos-methyl (AZM), also known as Guthion.  So we are learning and hopefully moving ahead.  I wish the study had been about something more current and relevant to the pesticide and GMO issue rather than nutrition.  Today there was a good rebuttal in the LA Times about the controversy and where some stand – notable are Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan.  The fact that there’s a petition by move.org to discredit the Stanford study seems silly and unjust.  The findings are the findings whether you agree or think they should’ve been done differently.  I like many of move.org’s petitions, but I’m not signing this one.