Entries in kid favorite (10)


pasta carbonara 


If there is one dinner that produces a table full of cleaned plates it is pasta carbonara. It is a really quick dinner to make too...the only trick is the timing: Cook the bacon before starting the pasta. Have all the remaining sauce ingredients ready to go. Once the water is boiling you can cook the pasta and start cooking the onions at the same time. The egg mixture must be added to the pasta immediately after the pasta is drained because the heat of the pasta is what cooks the eggs. Cream is not esential in pasta carbonara but many people are wary of eating runny eggs and have the tendency to overcook them "just to be safe." By adding cream the eggs are a bit less likely to scramble.






1 package fettucine or spaghetti
8 ounces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
1bag frozen peas
3 eggs
1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan cheese


Bring large pot of water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. 

Heat a large skillet on high heat and add bacon. Cook, stirring often, until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Drain all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Now is the time to put the spaghetti in the boiling water.

Combine eggs and 2 tablespoons half and half in a glass container and stir with a fork until well combined and set aside.


Add onion to pan with bacon fat and saute until translucent. Add peas and stir until they are thawed. Add remaining half and half and stir to combine. Reduce heat to a simmer and season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until al dente, and drain. Place pasta back in pan and immediately add egg mixture. Stir continuously until pasta is well coated and egg mixture is thickening. Add sauce in skillet to pasta. Add reserved bacon and serve with parmesan.






For my kids quesadillas are right up there with mac & cheese and pizza on the list of favorite foods. We usually make plain cheese quesadillas and add on a variety of toppings at the table: fresh salsas, guacamole, sour cream, and sauteed zucchini and corn are among the favorites. You can also add beans, leftover roasted chicken or any leftover meat.


As an alternative you can fill the qusadillas with the extras but I find that more stuffed quesadillas are much harder to flip (you loose half the filling in the pan) and the kids love to make their own at the table. 





4 ripe avocados

juice of one lime

1/4-1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro

Sea salt, to taste


Peel and chop avocados and place in a bowl. Add lime juice and mash until well combined but still chunky. Stir in cilantro and salt.



1 large ripe tomato or 3 ripe plum tomatoes

1 small onion (or half medium onion)

finely chopped cilantro

green tobasco 

salt and pepper


Finely chop tomatoes and onion.

Stir together in a bowl.

Add cilantro, salt and pepper, and tobasco to taste.



1 or 2 small zucchini

4 ears corn on cob

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic


salt and pepper


Chop zucchini into small dice.

Cut corn from cob.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and onion and garlic. Saute until translucent.

Add corn and zucchini and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of oregano.

Cook, stirring occasionally until zucchini is starting to brown.



pasta with salmon and peas

This is one of my kids' favorite dinners and you can make the whole thing in the time it takes to cook the pasta. I buy smoked salmon in the refrigerated section of the grocery store so I can have the ingredients waiting in the fridge anytime...if you cannot find it you can also use leftover salmon, or roast an 8 ounce fillet in a 450 degree oven until cooked through - about 10 minutes. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and pasta, and cook until al dente. In the meantime, chop a small onion and saute in olive oil. Add a bag of frozen peas, and a pint of half and half. Break 8 ounces of smoked salmon into little pieces and stir into pan with cream and peas. Simmer until heated through. Drain pasta, return to pot, and toss with salmon mixture. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.




spaghetti with sardines and breadcrumbs


Every year during spring break we take a vacation with my extended family...there are eleven of us in all: my sister, her husband and their two children, my mom and dad, and the five of us. We are just back from this years trip so the next few posts will be from our time away. I am the cook of the family, and although I get tons of help with shopping, table setting, and clean up, the majority of the cooking is done by me. When we arrived the week before Easter we were warned that the shops would all be closed from Good Friday through the Monday after Easter, and as a result I immediately started stockpiling food.  Things that could be stored in the pantry were especially appealing since refrigerator space was limited and 4 days is a long time for things to last. I was a little worried about trying something for the first time when a table of 10 were counting on me for dinner but all were quite happy with this dish! We ended up having it again towards the end of our trip - this time I used whole wheat spaghetti, which no one even noticed. Coarse breadcrumbs add texture to this dish so I recommend making your own from some stale bread: just tear bread into small pieces and then pulse in a food processor or blender until you have coarse crumbs. If you want to skip this step Panko breadcrumbs are a good alternative.





1 pound spaghetti

1/2 - 3/4 cups breadcrumbs 

olive oil

1 red onion, finely diced

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tins sardines 

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped


Bring a large pot of salted water

to a boil.


In the meanwhile, toast breadcrumbs in a medium skillet until lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean. Return pan to the stove and add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet placed over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until transluscent. Add sardines and the oil they are packed in to the pan and break up with a wooden spoon. 


Once you have started sauteing the onions and garlic you can cook the spaghetti. When it is almost ready add the parsley to the sardine mixture. Drain the spaghetti when it is al dente, reserving a cup or two of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the sauce and toss to combine, adding some of the pasta water if the mixture seems too dry. Stir in breadcrumbs and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil if desired. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.


ham, not just for holidays


When I think of ham I imagine Easter dinner. Or, a giant buffet. Just a few months ago I discovered these very small ham roasts at our local farmer's market, and recently I found a tiny Niman Ranch ham at Whole Foods. Since the hams are fully cooked (as well as nitrate free and responsibly raised) all I had to do was heat it up and make some sides...which, to me, is the fun part of making dinner. When I set down the plates the kids were all so excited and there was a chorus of "Mmmm, I love this ham!" It will definitely be added to the list of things to keep on hand - the fact that there is a long refrigerator life is a bonus too.


pizza party


I love spending an afternoon cooking with friends, especially if the friends love to cook and eat as much as I do. Our dear friends Randall and Bernat fit the bill...we have spent many weekends together where the majority of our time is spent in the kitchen, and the rest of the time is spent either shopping the farm stands or eating! Last September we had one of those weekends and this pizza party was the result. Pizza is perfect for a multi-generational cooking party - there isn't much cooking once you have made the dough...and dough takes time but is fun to make. Plus, once you have gathered all the possible components everyone can mix and match the ingredients to suit their own tastes. Half the fun comes from seeing what inspires everyone, and tasting each others winning combinations. 


If you do not feel like making your own dough you can buy pizza dough at most supermarkets these days.



1 package dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

approximately 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

cornmeal or semolina flour


Place the yeast in a large bowl with the warm water and sugar. Set aside for about 10 minutes until frothy. Add flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix to combine. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 miutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. If the mixture is too sticky you can mix in a little more flour until it is manageable. 


Use remaining tablespoon olive oil to coat a large bowl. Set dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for about an hour - the dough should double in size. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll into rounds about 1/8 inch thick, using more flour for rolling. You can stack these between layers of parchment paper sprinkled with semolina or cornmeal until you are ready to use.


We made a second batch of pizza dough using 1 cup of whole wheat flour mixed with 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.  You can use whatever you like for toppings...we made a tomato sauce with sauteed onions, garlic and fresh basil. We also sauteed broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms. Our raw toppings were figs, sliced mozzarella, grated parmesan, and fresh herbs. We also loved drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil on after cooking and sprinkling with course sea salt.


Cook the pizzas in a preheated 450° oven. I do not have a pizza stone, or any rimless baking sheets, but I find that using these sheet pans inverted works well...you can still slide the pizzas off the pan onto a cutting board or plate pretty easily. Just be sure to sprinkle them liberally with more of the cornmeal.



crispy flounder


Flounder is one of my kids favorite fish and this preparation is so simple. I dip the fillets in a lightly beaten egg, then dip it in panko breadcrumbs that I season with some salt. I use a mixture of butter and olive oil in the skillet - the butter adds a lot of flavor and the olive oil prevents it from getting too brown. It only takes a few minutes on each side so prepare the side dishes before starting the fish. Here I served it with a white bean salad and roasted asparagus.


cardboard castle

I am a huge fan of Ann Wood and have one of her small birds in my collection. Recently I was looking at her blog and discovered the most stunning cardboard castle. I knew I could never rival her artistry, but thought I could have fun trying to create a castle with my kids…the kids wholeheartedly agreed!

Being a bit of a control freak I had to do a little deep breathing as my kids tore into the supplies and immediately wanted to (gasp) color on the cardboard with magic markers! Once I recovered, and calmly encouraged them to think about a more purist approach, we agreed on a compromise: we could all glue things to the large castle but would try to keep it marker free…then the boys each did a smaller building that they got to art direct all on their own.



I love the final results and we spent 2 whole afternoons working on the project. By the way, this in one idea that really benefits from a glue gun--you avoid the messy drips of regular white glue and the hot glue sets quickly so you do not have to hold it for a long time at all to get it to stick. The kids think the glue gun is an exciting power tool but do be careful…it is really really hot so little kids probably should not touch it at all.





A few days before halloween I stopped by our local fabric store to get some costume making supplies. My kids were with me and my son Oliver begged me to buy the book Felties. Of course, we had no time to be making little dolls with three kids in need of costumes, so the book got buried in one of the piles in my work room. During the kids school holiday Oliver found the book and started begging me to sew with him. I let each child pick one idea from the book - Oliver chose the Panda, Owen chose the Samurai, and Bea chose the Polar Bear (most likely because it had a baby). I realized quickly that helping all three at the same time would prove challenging so I scanned the pages for each project and printed them out. As I was trying to figure out the best way for the kids to copy the patterns I remembered my friend Jodi's story on applique in Martha Stewart Kids…she suggests freezer paper as a tool in that story and sure enough, it was the perfect solution here too. The kids could easily trace the patterns onto the freezer paper and then we ironed the freezer paper to the felt. It sticks so you can cut along the lines of the paper--then you just peel the paper off the felt and you have perfectly cut pieces. The boys managed to do much of this on their own once I helped get it organized. Bea's role was more spectator than anything else but she seemed perfectly happy nonetheless. Although I have tons of embroidery floss that I have collected over the years (while never actually learning to embroider) I did not have any that matched our felt. We found that plain old thread worked just fine. We made a few other adjustments along the way too…the pieces that were meant to be glued did not seem secure enough so we sewed a few stitches through them too. We also ran out of steam before making the baby polar bear but luckily Bea was ok with that too. Oliver was the most committed to the project…once his panda was done he asked for a few more scraps of felt and whipped up a little basket of leaves for him to eat too! All in all, it was a great way to spend half a day inside on a very cold day!


muji notebooks


Whenever we go out to a restaurant I always bring along a couple of spiral notebooks from Muji along with some markers to keep the kids occupied. They’re small and lightweight and lay flat on the table while the kids draw. When the pages are filled, the notebooks make nice little albums of their artwork. I try to remember to date them.


Target also sells these little notebooks made from recycled paper by greenroom.