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.




Hunger Challenge/Meatless Monday – Day 2

Today was easier than yesterday.  I knew it would be.  The kids have more of a routine, are at school and not asking about the unsmiley faces.  There’s been lots of talk and then stress at my house about what’s going to happen during the week in regards to food.  I imagine in a house where food is lacking this would always be on a child’s (and parent’s) mind too.  Wondering if you’ll be provided with enough to fill you up (physically and emotionally).

My husband ended up on a plane today for 24 hours, so we didn’t need to worry about him.  No, it was work related.  At least I don’t think  he wasn’t trying to get out of the challenge.

Breakfast was the usual for me – oatmeal with a sprinkle of granola and a half of banana.  The kids had yogurt with berries and granola and orange juice.

kids' breakfast
my oatmeal

I made my son’s lunch for school.  I had to remind him that we were not only on the challenge but it was Meatless Monday so no turkey sandwich.  He settled for sunflower butter and fruit spread plus carrots, pretzels and grapes.  My daughter and I had lunch at home after I picked her up from kindergarten.  Her wrap was avocado, cheese, and spinach.  Mine was the left-over roasted veggies from dinner with hummus, avocado and spinach.

son's lunch
daughter's wrap
my wrap

Later was snack time between school and Tae Kwon Do.  My daughter suggested smoothies which was perfect.  I plopped in about a cup of frozen pineapple, a banana, about a cup of orange juice and about 3/4 cup yogurt.  We all had some and put some in popsicle molds to freeze and eat tomorrow.

smoothie (and those pretzels again)


Dinner was very exciting.  My kids love fondue.  And this is a fun and easy recipe for pizza fondue (see recipe on previous blog here), which works great for Meatless Monday too.  What’s not to like – tomaoes, cheese and spices?  Plus they love to break out my fun orange fondue pot I found on Etsy.  (We serve in it only.  I don;t risk burners on the table with kids).  Although my son questioned why I was opening a can of tomatoes saying “Aren’t canned food bad?”  We usually use Pomi in a carton, but I explained about the price difference and they were still organic.

While my son was at Tae Kwon Do my daughter and I made a trip to Whole Foods for a baguette, some celery, a box of crackers, brown sugar (not my usual, but cheaper version) and a few plums ($8.46).  There were a few discussions when my daughter said “Mommy can we get this?” or “Mom we’re out of this.”  I had to remind her about the challenge, which she mistakenly (or freudian) calls “the hungry challenge”.  She’s only 5, but she’s starting to catch on…if we buy the olive bread for $4 instead of the french for $2, then we can’t buy the crackers.

Since my husband is gone I removed a few big scoops of the tomato puree to reserve for pizza sauce later in the week, and then saved on cheese too.  I also transformed the lentils from left-over Sunday night to a lentil salad (now cold with rosemary salt, vinegar and oil).  I made japanese sweet potato chips for dipping.  We also dipped the baguette, red pepper, broccoli, and celery.  My son doubted that a family on food stamps could make this since it was so good.  I said yes they could, as long as they had the time and energy and liked to cook (no orange fondue pot necessary).

cooking fondue




Vegetarian Cookbook Review with Cheese Fondue Recipe

When I was offered a look at the new cookbook, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes by Judith Finlayson, I was intrigued.  As you may know I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a slow cooker.  Read about my hesitations in my blog.  My family is also doing Meatless Mondays and I am always looking for new vegetarian dishes.  And my sister is vegan and while many of the recipes use dairy, there are some which note how to make them vegan, which I find helpful.  Anyways the cookbook arrived and the recipes looked great.  I wanted of course to make something, but still am not sure I want another appliance (especially to store).  The great thing is, I can and have made some of these recipes without a slow cooker with great results.  Of course some dishes (those with beans) need extra work (soaking) not required of the slow cooker, but it can be done.  Also some of the dishes can be cooked in a braising pot for a few hours (which I already have) – but no I wouldn’t leave the house.  The convenience isn’t there without the slow cooker.   The author does give info about various slow cookers and use, which is helpful if I do buy.

So while I didn’t buy a slow cooker I did buy a retro 70’s fondue pot.  Why?  Because it is lovely and orange.  Seriously my friend put a photo of this fondue pot on her blog and I immediately bought it on Etsy.  Who knew Etsy had kitchenware?  I’m in trouble now.  I’ve had it over a month and it’s only been a display item on the open shelf in the kitchen.  The slow cooker wouldn’t have such a prominent place.  Not sure what I was waiting for to use it.  However the perfect opportunity came with the arrival of the The Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  There are some inspiring dishes that are from all kinds of food flavors and origins and then I saw the section on fondues.  One in particular is a new favorite at my house… Kid’s Fondue.  This is like a bowl full of rich gooey pizza.  I am not kidding.  So while the recipe said to cook in the slow cooker for 1 hour, I simply heated and cooked low on the stove and then poured it into my fondue pot.  Super simple.  My family loved it.  My son was quite skeptical at first.  He likes fondue and is not a huge tomato lover.  When he saw it he said he wasn’t going to eat it.  However after dipping a piece of baguette and red pepper he exclaimed “This is the best fondue I’ve ever had!” 

And really I think the whole book is straight forward and pretty simple.  It may end up putting me over the top to buy a slow cooker…  But for now I’m enjoying the book without it.  I think making a recipe your own is what cooking is all about, and me wanting to use the book not as intended means the book is interesting.  So whether you are vegetarian or not, or have a slow cooker or not you can make this book yours too.  Here’s the recipe…

Kid’s Favorite Fondue

(page 108, The Vegetarian Slow Cooker)

Need: small (max 1/2 quart slow cooker)

fondue forks

1 can 28 ounces tomatoes (I used Pomi)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

sliced baguette, celery sticks andsliced red pepper to serve and dip

Process tomatoes with juice.  Transfer to cooker.  Add spices and cook on high for 1 hour, until hot and bubbly. (I used a pan on the stovepot on low for about 30 minutes)

Add cheese in handfuls, stirring to combine.

Reduce heat to low and serve.  Dip bread and/or veggies into fondue.