magic mac

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For anyone who has followed my multi-year search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I'm sorry. It's not exactly the cause I thought I'd champion when I finished grad school. The good news is that I finally found it: an easy, no-powder mac and cheese (slightly tweaked from Dad Cooks Dinner) that both boys loved on two separate occasions. I can make in the Instantpot—it's even easier than a stovetop version, And I can pack it in thermoses for their lunch boxes. And here it is:



  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

    ***This makes a ton so feel free to half it or store it in the fridge for a week or two and scoop out as needed. Heat up with a splash of milk or water.



the great grape wars

The GRAPE WARS, (whoever shows the bigger grape wins), brilliantly created by Michael this morning, led to both kids eating many many grapes. And so the wars will continue. (After I clean everyone's fingernails.)

the genius humous recipe that doesn't take a genius

What is so genius about this humous recipe is the use of baking soda. After soaking the dried chickpeas overnight (dump in bowl, cover with water, go to sleep) you drain them and add them to a saucepan with a teaspoon of baking soda and cook for a while until the chickpeas start bubbling white. This is the baking soda working). Then just add water and simmer. The bubbles will get bigger and more like blobs of foam, which you can scoop off. After about 30 minutes, the chickpeas go in a food processor with the regulars--lemon, tahini and garlic and whirl. The final step is kind of joyous: add ice water. For some reason, this makes it into that creamy texture you want your humous to be. 

can someone get a sandwich around here?

Sandwich dinner is many family's cop-out meal. Not ours. For us, sandwiches for dinner turned out to be an emotional journey and a major turning point on our road to better times. Some people don't know this but my husband, Michael, is actually the self proclaimed king of sandwiches. See this post. Our kids however shun sandwiches. Last week Mack ate a few bites of salami and cheese sandwich and Michael was glowing for days.

The idea arose this morning. Me: Nate you've eaten 85 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches this summer. Can we try another kind? Nate: no. Michael  "Nate I'm going to make some sandwiches for you to try tonight at dinner," translation: mommy is going to make sandwiches for us.

I bought some new breads and salami, then made egg salad. (It occurred to me that Nate likes hard boiled eggs so what if they were just mashed up?) I'll admit, I was somewhat hopeful that this dinner would change the rest of our lives,

An hour before dinner Nate fell into a funk. I don't want sandwiches for dinner, Don't worry, I said. There are lots of options...." he looked intrigued. "Like hot dogs," I lied. Nate made his way to his room saying he wanted to be alone. I gave him some cool down time then entered to find him crying. I held him, then threw a couple hot dogs in the microwave.

When we sat down to dinner, I was nervous, standing up a lot, making announcements and stopping Michael from saying anything that might ruin my master plan which was anything at all. I quickly spread some egg salad (but refrained from calling it "salad") on a lenders bagel and gave it to Nate, then proceeded to pretend to not care what happened next. Michael made Mack a salami sandwich  and I started to make myself a sandwich when a crazy thing happened. Nate ate the open-faced egg salad bagel and liked it. Next we tried a closed egg salad bagel with toothpicks and he ate that too. I was so excited that I rewarded him with no carrots required AND candy. Michael was pleased. Well done he said.

My theory is that seeing foods that Nate could reject (salami, ham, etc) gave him the leeway to choose something that looked familiar even if in a different form.

Unfortunately neither of us noticed that Mack didn't eat anything and he was up all night, hungry. It was a big cleanup and Michael had to leave early to play tennis in Queens. Looking back I will probably realize what a ridiculous person I have become, with fucked up values and an unhealthy need for my kids to eat well. But for the night, I called it a triumph.

the mommy chef who saved dinner

My Brooklyn Based article about chef Paula Hankin and her ideas for feeding picky eaters.

 Read here

two ingredient pizza

A few months ago Kirsten, babysitter extraordinaire who works for Remi's family, told me about a recipe she had found online. Pizza dough made from 1 cup yogurt and 1 cup flour. That's it!! I was skeptical but she swore by it. I  first tried it out at my inlaws and it was a hit, even with the adults. The dough was crispy and soft and full of flavor.

Since then I make it frequently, always including the kids in the process because it's so super simple and I like the idea of them learning to cook or at least appreciate cooking. But the other day when I suggested we make yogurt pizza for dinner, Nate said he wasn't interested.

"What if I make the dough and you guys do toppings?" I suggested

"Yeah Sure." His new response to everything.

This actually worked much better because it was faster and not nearly as messy without the kids throwing flour all over the floor and rubbing yogurt in their hair. 

Two-Ingredient Pizza

  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt (I use Fage)
  • 1 cup self-rising flour (or add 1 tsp baking powder  and 1/4 tsp salt to all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450.

Mix in large bowl and then knead (I do this in the bowl to save cleanup) for 5 minutes, adding flour if needed, until it's tacky but not sticky. At this point I cheat a bit and add a few drops of olive oil to the dough, but you don't have to. Roll the dough out thin and place either on a board (if you're transferring to a hot pizza stone) or on the oiled underside of a sheet pan. Then hand it over to the kids with a bowl of tomato sauce (canned) and a bowl of shredded Mozzarella. You can put the pan right in the oven or slide the masterpiece onto your stone.

Bake about 10-12 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is starting to brown.

to veg...or not to veg

Is it okay for your child to eat no vegetables? Like none at all. I guess the answer to that question is probably, no, it’s not alright but my son seems to be living pretty well on a diet of NO VEGETABLES.

For awhile we were on a one-vegetable gig-carrots were the one and only veg he ate but he would eat one or two minis at every meal—or be punished. Really. We once sent him to bed because he wouldn’t finish his carrots and then felt terrible when he actually did go to bed for the night in his clothes. I hate to make this a fight but I’ve tried every other option. See Carrot Mac and Cheese.

Last week, under the forgiving gaze of two adoring grandparents, he refused his one baby carrot. I pushed and pushed and 30 minutes later he was still nibbling through the baby carrot in mini microbites. When he finally finished it, he made a weird gagging noise, came over to me and threw up ONLY CARROT all over me. It wasn’t a lot of vomit-baby carrots are small—but it was the whole baby carrot, the one I made him eat, in regurgitated flecks on my lap. I have to admit it was a brilliant move that Michael and I now refer to as “throwing up the carrot”- when a kid makes it almost impossible to continue making him do something.

Anyway, a few days ago Nate announced that he was through with carrots. Not surprising. He refused cucumbers and snow peas – former favorites—so I was forced to pack an apple in his lunchbox instead of the usual veggie cuts. This went on for awhile until I finally declared my case again at dinner:



carrot mac and cheese

I'm not a big fan of making something with disguised veggies and protein to trick my kids into getting some nutrients. It's certainly not because I've been blessed with great eaters. Nate will eat hot dogs, apples and pasta with butter (he recently threatened to give up apples until I cried for mercy.) Mack is more adventurous and seems to take more enjoyment in food, but he won't eat anything Nate refuses and it's hard for him to sit still long enough to consume a whole meal. 

I've tried Jessica Seinfeld's recipes with little success. The banana-peanut butter-carrot muffins were sort of dense and nobody liked them, all 24 of them. The chocolate cake made with beets tasted like it was made with beets. And after spending a lot of valuable time on these, I sort of gave up and went back to broiling hot dogs. 

The one "kid friendly" recipe that has intrigued me is Melissa Clark's infamous carrot mac and cheese, adapted from her book here. It's simple to make and beloved by many. It has traveled far and wide into foodie circles as well as "kid-foodie" (there should be a term for this.) circles. So yesterday I gave it a try. The trick is that the shredded carrots look similar to the shredded cheddar and the whole wheat elbows so the child will get confused and not realize he is eating carrots. 

Well, not my kids. Neither of them would even touch it which was a real shame since it was pretty damn good. I ate a good portion for dinner and froze chunks of the rest to try again on Mack in a few weeks. (That kid has no memory!)