turning squash into spaghetti

At the tail end of our market bonanza, I went looking for eggs and came back with this, and vague memories of eating some delicious spaghetti squash years back. Michael was less than excited about my new find but I stashed it in the bottom of the stroller so he promptly forgot it ever existed until I unveiled last night's dinner, which, as Mack now says, "blew his head off." And yes Mack loved it too.

Spaghetti squash has flesh that when cooked and removed with a fork resembles spaghetti (actually more like sauerkraut) but which can be prepared to taste pretty close to a cheesy heap of pasta. Here's the easy secret: microwave it whole. Poke some knife slits in and microwave for 5-10 minutes until soft. When it cools, slice is open length wise (should be easy to cut) then scoop out the seeds. Trade the spoon for a fork and begin de-stranding.

What next? I took the easy route again: sauteed some garlic in olive oil in frying pan, then dumped in the squash. Cook for 5-10 minutes then add some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I added a spoonful of ricotta at the very end to make it a little more creamy.

zucchini makes an easy soup

Basic recipe: Cook zucchini (and/or yellow squash which is what we had) in broth and then puree it. HERE is the recipe.

Notes: I didn't have creme fraiche on hand (who does?) so I used some Ricotta and a little milk but you could use cream cheese or plain yogurt. Or nothing--the cream just gives it a little richer taste. I added the sherry vinegar right to the soup but you can also serve on top of each bowl. It's a very mild yet tangy soup which any kid who eats soup would like. You could even throw in a few noodles! And it really can be served hot or cold. Make a batch and freeze half for November. 

There is another recipe for zucchini soup via Grant Achatz that I also love and is only a tiny bit more complicated but richer and better for a party. 

my version of friday take-out

For some reason, I cannot order takeout when the rest of the intelligent world would, so tonight's dinner is a result of what was in the freezer/fridge after a week with TWO school holidays, six loads of laundry and a movie about cartoon turtles who fall in love. Eaten silently with a spoon in two identical bowls. And yes I realize they don't really go together and yes, I was too hungry to take pictures so this is a somewhat lame post but actually both were pretty awesome...Michael and Mack ate every last bite. I will make both recipes again. Unless someone orders takeout.

Easy Chicken-Broccoli "Fried Rice"

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  •  chicken thighs cut into small pieces
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli defrosted
  • 1 tsps each fish sauce, soy sauce
  • 1 small bag Uncle Ben's parboiled brown rice
  • 1 egg

Heat olive oil and garlic clove in saucepan. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes then add fish and soy sauces. Cook for 5 minutes and add broccoli then rice. When hot, add raw egg and mix to cook. Season with soy or hot sauce to taste.

Easy Greek Shrimp

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 pound raw shrimp cleaned and shelled including tail (I used bag o' frozen)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/4 cup feta

In saute pan, olive oil and one garlic clove then add tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsa and cook until tomatoes are soft. Add raw shrimp, stir until covered then scatter feta on top. Cover and cook over medium high until shrimp is cooked and feta melted (about 3-5 minutes).

nope, dinner is still not ready and whining won't help

I realized today that we are making progress. Only one year ago, this is how our family dinner went down:

Family Dinner, 2014

5:45 pm: Nate is in his room-he was punished for calling me a poopy-head and hitting Mack in the bath. Mack is crying because he’s hungry.

6 pm: Michael gets home. 

6:15 pm: we sit down for dinner but the chicken isn’t ready yet and Nate refuses to even try the cauliflower with cheese sauce or humous and carrots. He asks for ketchup. Mack eats everything but wants what everybody else is eating, even though it’s the same thing that’s on his plate. He cries and begs with no words throughout dinner making conversation very difficult.

6:18 pm: Nate eats four strands of pasta and asks to be excused. We say no and he slides off his chair onto the floor, then tries to stick forks in water bottles. We tell Nate to join us; he cries. Mack cries and begs to be let down from his chair even though he’s still eating. Nate goes to his room while Mack cries. We let Mack down and quickly finish the boys’ dinner.

6:25pm : I clean up a million dishes.

When I talk to the many amazing, smart, accomplished women I know who lament the fact that they have to make dinner for their family, I get it, and for the first time in a long time, I think I can be useful. Since leaving the professional world six years ago, I've had a hard time feeling adequate but the one area I've mastered is cooking for my family. So until I return to the office or publish a bestseller, I'd like to offer some tips, strategies and recipes—along with humor and empathy— for my mom friends who are out doing the hard stuff of working, parenting, being a woman in this world. Dads, of course, welcome too.

6:00 pm sucks. It is the most stressful part of the day--parents are exhausted from work (or taking care of kids); kids are tired and hungry and whining or fighting. It's hard to come up with creative meals that will feed everyone and not repeat the same thing every night. It's hard to know what to do in advance or what should be saved for later. It's hard to make something healthy and simple with minimal cleanup.

Let's start from the beginning: Kids are hungry. Dinner is not ready. What to do? Put some cut up veggies in a bowl. Next open a single serving bowl of plain greek yogurt and mix in some seasoned salt (or onion salt). Add a tablespoon of milk and stir. Announce your creation and set it out on the table. Pour the wine.

a three ingredient sauce you should know about

Last night I made  Sam Sifton's Adobo Chicken. I was looking for a recipe for chicken thighs and this one has hundreds of four-star ratings on the New York Times site. Pros: super easy and the reduced sauce is rich despite having only a few ingredients.  (Michael thought it was peanut sauce-that's how nutty and creamy it becomes.) Cons: I burned the chicken so would advise a shorter broiling time. I did not take a picture of the chicken because I was so upset that I burned it (and also that I wasn't watching it because I was wiping a tushie...) Takeaway: make the sauce. It's three ingredients that you probably already have, mixed together. Then serve it with some easy broiled chicken.

let the races begin

On Sunday we had double birthday parties. Mack and Michael went to Sadie's girly party and Nate and I went to Remi's at Buzz-a-rama-- an automated race car track in deep Brooklyn which has been around since 1965. The kids triggered little guns that accelerated their assigned car around the track but everything was so old that the cars kept popping off of their tracking.

Then this awesome old guy with a megaphone rallied everyone into the party room in back where only one overhead florescent light was on. The kids scarfed down pizza and cake so they could play the retro video games (Ms PacMan etc.) lining the walls but when megaphone man came in to turn on the games, only half of them even worked. Still, it was a great party.

Afterwards the Moshana's met up at Whole Foods to shop but everyone was tired, Mack was a maniac and Nate pooped his pants so we left in tears and only managed to pick up a few things, including this tilapia which I grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. It was surprisingly delicious, fresh and simple. Unlike our weekend.


I first had Shakshuka at the Fagen estate in East Hampton. Their chef who used to work at Mimi's Hummus, prepared the Middle Eastern dish for 10 people and we ate it at a long table by the pool. I've been wanting to make it since and when I found out Aimee and Marc were coming to brunch (she's allergic to seafood so no lox) it was the perfect time.  I made Melissa Clark's shakshuka — delicious, cheap and easy. You don't need a private chef for this. In fact you can make it mostly ahead of time (add eggs after guests arrive) and serve family-style in middle of table with warm pita.

when the kids don't finish their pasta

There is always leftover pasta so I usually save it and sometimes turn it into a slightly more grownup dinner for us. Here's the gist: saute some fresh or frozen veggies and either leftover meat or maybe frozen shrimp** in a large frying pan. Add seasonings and a little chicken broth then dump in leftover pasta. Serve with parmesan cheese.

A note on frozen shrimp--all shrimp is flash frozen even if you buy it fresh in a good fish store. So don't feel bad about buying a big bag in the freezer or seafood section of any grocery store. You can buy raw or cooker but go for already deveined and cleaned (most are.) Keep it in your freezer indefinitely then when you have nothing else for dinner, defrost overnight in the fridge or just let it sit under running water in a colander for a few minutes. Then eat or add to any pasta dish.

fish for dummies

I have a problem with fish: I don't like to cook it. I don't like having to be super delicate with the spatula for fear of ruining the filet. I don't like grilling it and watching it fall through the grates. I don't really like salmon and there's only so much swordfish a girl can eat.

After some research and practice, I discovered two great fish recipes that make it much easier and much tastier. The upshot: cover with seasoned texture and bake.

Jacques Pepin' slow roasted salmon (above) is from his book Fast Food My Way which is brilliant, but dated. (I found it lost in the back of my mom's cookbook collection but refer to it all the time.) He puts a coating made of bread crumbs, herbs and ground hazelnuts on top of the fish then bakes it low and slow. He serves it with a sundried tomato mayo but I just mixed a little tomato soup into mayo, added some S&P, and it was perfect. I also didn't have nuts so I just mixed the bread crumbs with some olive oil and salt. 

The other recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa but the concept is the key. Cover (any white fish) seasoned fillets in a mixture of mustard, sour cream (creme fraiche if you want to be fancy) and capers. (See left) Then bake. The fish comes out really moist with a slightly spicy/creamy flavor. 

spinach dip

Michael calls me the "queen of dips" for good reason. I can make a dip out of almost anything and they are usually pretty good. My standard "we're having guests and I need a dip" is yogurt, plus mayo plus spices. But I went out of my comfort zone and made this one for a mom's night holiday party. Not difficult, not fancy but good-looking and indulgent. 

  • 2 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper

     Mix everything. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

     Serve in a bread bowl with reserved bread cubes or fresh vegetables, pita chips.

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.

a gift from trader joe's that no one has to know about

I bought this sauce at Trader Joe's, along with a package of chicken thighs and two zucchinis. Here's the recipe: Cut up four chicken thighs and 2 large zucchini into chunks and sautée them in a bit of olive oil until chicken is not pink. Then dump in the sauce. Stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Hide the sauce container. Serve.

fish dish

I made this fish tonight and it was delicious and easy...

Marinate one pound of fish fillets  (any kind of white fish) in 1/4 cup lime juice and salt/pepper for 10 minutes.

In skillet, cook one minced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, a can tomatoes, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/2 can black beans, half bunch cilantro chopped roughly,1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tblsp chile powder. Cook until reduced (20 min) then add fish w marinade and cook until done. Add salt/pepper. Serve with avocado on top or sour cream/yogurt. Could also serve over pasta.

my ma-po

Last night I continued our week of healthy dinners with Mark Bittman's Ma-Po Tofu. Bittman's premise is that a little meat goes a long way so he suggests more tofu and tomatoes than ground pork. (The traditional dish is fairly heavy with ground beef and also more complicated with chile paste and fermented black beans.) I doubled the recipe below and probably added a touch more ground pork that suggested. I also added a tablespoon of cream to bring out the creaminess of the tofu; and of course a squeeze of lemon. Served over Soba noodles, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Super simple and hearty, and more or less healthy.

Simmered Tofu With Ground Pork (Ma-Po Tofu)

  • 1 tablespoon peanut or other oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only
  • 1/2 cup stock or water
  • 1 pound soft or silken tofu, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • Minced cilantro for garnish, optional
  1. Put oil in a deep 10-inch skillet or wok, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to medium-high. A minute later, add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, and cook just until they begin to sizzle, less than a minute. Add pork, and stir to break it up; cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses most of its pink color.
  2. Add scallions and stir; add stock. Cook for a minute or so, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon if necessary to loosen any stuck bits of meat, then add tofu. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tofu is heated through, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce; taste, and add salt and red pepper flakes as necessary. Garnish with cilantro if you like, and serve.

transforming kid food

I actually made these panko-breaded chicken breasts for the kids because I was tired of the frozen kind. I used fresh organic, free-range, local chicken, panko, Parmesan cheese, pasteurized eggs and high quality oil. Neither boy touched them. Nate said they were brown.

So I reinvented them for night two of veggie/healthy/detox week. Reheated in a dry frying pan and topped with a simple, light tomato sauce (recipe below) and served with baked zucchini (375 for 20 minutes) and whole wheat shells (which when covered in Parmesan tasted kind of like pasta. I get why the kids don't eat the whole wheat pasta...but the chicken breasts? they were amazing. why do the kids hate everything I actually make from scratch. why? why?!

Tomato sauce

  • 1 can tomato diced
  • salt, balsamic, lemon juice, garlic.

Bring to a boil and reduce for 20-30 min