Z is for…Zucchini

     About a year and a half ago, my 9 year old cucumber-loving son ate raw zucchini by mistake, thinking it was, of course, cucumber….He didn’t spit it out, he chewed it and swallowed it and then said, “Mum, is this cucumber?”  I asked him what he thought it was and he said, “I guess it’s zucchini, ’cause it doesn’t taste like cucumber.”  “What do you think?”  “Well, it’s okay.”

    Poor zucchini.  Veggie trays all over the place, and it always loses out to the fresh tasting water-filled cucumber, at least when it comes to kids.    I have found zucchini to be one of the vegetables that is easier to get my kids to eat as part of a meal.   They enjoy making stuffed zucchini (quinoa, lentils and sausage meat with some curry seasonings…or if you live around here, you can use the currywurst sausage from Pipers meats).  I grew up eating stewed zucchini, made with onions, tomatoes, basil and oregano.  Zucchini also takes its place beside carrots as a great addition to breads and cakes.  One of the reasons for that is the abundance of zucchini at harvest time.  Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows just how productive those plants can be, and of course, they all come at the same time!  Home cooks had to come up with uses for all those green “squash”.  While we don’t grow them, we know plenty of folks who do and they are all ready to share them with us.  A good tip if you have excess zucchini (which by the way, I am certain few people do right now…have you seen the price per pound or kg at the grocery store??  But come September, there are many many to be had), grate it in your food processor (or by hand if you have strong forearms) and freeze it grated, measured into 2 cup freezer containers.  From here, you are ready for baking or stews or sauces, or soups.

My favourite way to eat zucchini is sauteed with other veggies and served with short pasta.  One recipe that always goes over well in our house is from the book, Dieticians of Canada Cook!  I have used other similar recipes over the years, but this one was a big hit.

Veggie Bow Tie Pasta
2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta (farfalle)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 large sweet pepper sliced thinly (I use yellow because I like the colour combination)
1 cup quartered mushrooms
1 whole zucchini, chopped or sliced
2 tbsp red wine
2 larged plum or roma tomatoes (I remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon)
2 cups lightly packed fresh spinach
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
A good tip: have all your veggies prepared before you begin.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions until soft (3-4 minutes).  Sprinkle with pepper and salt.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so.  Add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened.
Increase heat to medium high.  Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits from the bottom.  Boil, stirring until most of the wine has evaporated.  Add Tomato and spinach, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Pour veggies over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
To complete this meal, add some bbq’d pork tenderloin or pork chops.
Or for a vegetarian meal, add some feta or toss some tofu with the veggies before adding to the pasta.
For a great lunch dish, prepare the veggies (omit the pasta).  Allow to cool and drain away any excess liquid, then add the veggie mixture to a tortilla or flatbread, strips of cooked chicken or pork or slices of tofu, wrap and eat, for some great sauteed veggie wraps.
Enjoy!  
This is the end of my “A to Z blog challenge”, now to move on to more inspiration for the next posts.  To all of you who joined on to follow the Lunch box during the challenge, I hope you found a reason to stay.  Thanks to everyone!  
More lunch box fun to come!
Happy Packing!

Y is for…Yes, Please!

…It is Friday, the last Friday in a crazy month of April (a month that started on a Friday as well!)…A month full of paperwork, competitions, Easter, more paperwork, baseball games, an Audit (more paperwork), a great visit from my Mum, lousy weather, a science project, more lousy weather, less than stellar behaviour and more paperwork.  But today is Friday (again) and the sun is shining and there is promise of decent weather…meaning that the deck furniture will soon be out (like maybe tomorrow)…And it is time for a drink!  So, yes please!
  This is a tasty mixture that you could put in someone’s lunchbox, but you would want to leave out the vodka…It is my favourite “Happy Friday” treat and it always tastes best when sitting on the deck with the sun going down.  Here it is…A Sparkling Citrus Sipper
     One glass (highball)
     2-3 ice cubes
     2 oz vodka
     slice of orange, lime, lemon, 2 pieces strawberry, a few blueberries
     2 oz Mango tangerine juice
     2 oz Club soda
1. Put ice and fruit in glass, add vodka.

2. Add juice; add soda.  Mix and enjoy.  Leave out the vodka for a great virgin sipper or Kids drink (my kids love it better than pop).  

Happy Friday!

    

X is for…Xerxes

 …Xerxes was King of Persia, now known as Iran…Noe Rooz is the celebration of Persian New Year, which begins naturally with the beginning of a “new year”, on the first day of Spring.  Many years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Mashid, who had emigrated from Iran to Canada with her family.  We worked togther for three years and she became like another Mother to me (she has three daughters of her own).  During that time, she shared a wealth of knowledge with me about Middle Eastern traditions and foods.  She taught me how to make “good” rice and shared many Iranian treats with me.  She also took me to a wonderful Persian Bakery in North Vancouver, Laleh Bakery  because she said that it was more fun to eat sweets than to make them.

  My favourite was and still is Gaz, which you may have seen or eaten, the rich white nougat chock full of pistachios.  Mashid would bring a bag of it with her to work and we would snack all day.  When I can find it, I still buy it and slip it into my children’s lunch boxes for a treat.  So far, no one has said that we cannot send pistachios to school!

Happy Packing!

W is for…Wiped out by Wednesday

Wow…What a weekend.  Easter and all that goes with it…On top of that, finalizing audit paperwork to go in the mail (and it is gone!  Yay), visitng (which is always the best part of holiday weekends), and a science project due for Wednesday, that we didn’t know about until Friday morning last week.  Well, the science project is finished (good thing, the science fair is today!).  Not to mention all the hockey there is to watch with both Canadian teams still in it…
Today, Wednesday, life should settle back into “normal” (whatever that is!)…We said a teary good-bye to Grandma this morning, as she heads back East, and Daycare gets back into full swing after a very quiet start to the week yesterday.  Tonight?  Just Dance class, and a baseball game…going to relax and enjoy it since the roller coaster of life will only gain speed tomorrow!  The Canucks have moved on to round two, now just for the Habs to do the same!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

V is for…Vegetables!

   Oh yes, I have been saving this one.  It is every parent’s concern…”I can’t get my child to eat vegetables.”   Well, how many grown-ups out there like to eat vegetables?  Really, I mean honestly…And if you like vegetables now, how many of you didn’t as a kid?  As a kid (and an adult) we want to eat things that taste good.  Sweet and salty are always right at the top.  Sour?  Bitter?  Not so much.  And yet, vegetables are so important to our diet.  There are more nutrients in a serving of veggies than in a same size serving of fruit.  (Fruit contain a lot of water and sugar, while vegetables tend to be more dense and nutrient packed).
As a new parent, I can remember reading about feeding those first solids…”Offer the veggies first. Don’t start with fruit.”  Why?  Well, I guess there is some conditioning that goes on and if we can get them to like veggies first, then the fruit will be easy.  My son (who didn’t really care for baby food, actually neither of my children liked the “strained baby food from a jar”) loved yams and sweet potatoes as an infant.  Of course he did!  I would bake slices of yams in the oven with a bit of margarine on them.  Once they were cooked, I would mash them up in a bowl and he thought they were fantastic.  Of course, these days, he won’t touch them (that is why I hide them in spaghetti sauce).  One time, I made plums for him.  Steamed them and then put them through the food mill.  They were a beautiful colour, a lovely purple.  He was eager to try them, but they were so sour!  I finally had to add maple syrup to them to get him to eat them.  Needless to say, I only made plums once.  Nowadays, he will eat three or four plums at one sitting when I buy them.  Who is to know?

The best advice I can come up with for getting children (and adults) to eat vegetables is this:  Get them to eat them when they are hungry!  When my children are milling around under my feet, looking for something to eat while I am making dinner, I always tell them they can have a whole carrot if they want but that is it.  (I can remember as a child being told I could have a piece of raw potato, and being hungry enough to eat it).  On really organized weeks, there will even be prepared veggies in the fridge they can snack on.  The plus to this kind of vegetable eating?  When they sit down at the table, any amount of vegetables they eat there becomes a bonus.  And because they have already had a serving of vegetables, you are not nagging them to “Eat your vegetables!”

Happy Packing!

U is for…Unanimous

   When the liking of a food is unanimous in our household, I cheer!  Up until a year or so ago, the list was very short…Spaghetti & meatballs and chicken & black bean stir fry with broccoli and noodles were about it.  Yes, there were other things that my children would eat and loved: macaroni and cheese for example, or baked chicken with rice and peas, chicken quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches…But when I say Unanimous, I mean all of us, and while I will eat those things, they are the foods I make so that everyone eats, not necessarily because I like them. 
   As the parent primarily responsible for the food in our house (I am not saying Mother, because I know that in many homes it is the father or the grandmother, or the big sister who takes on this roll, and not necessarily the Mother), it isn’t very often that I make something just because I like it.  I make steak when it is on sale and we haven’t had red meat in a while.  Seafood however, I make because I am craving some.  And tonight, we will be having Seafood!  Again though, not because I am craving it or because it is what everyone likes, but because my Mum is here visiting from Montreal and she loves seafood. She is heading home in a few days and it would be nice if we could have it once while she is here. 
    The rest of the week, however, I am shooting for a “unanimously popular”  (where is my English teacher husband?  can I even say that?) menu….
-Spaghetti and turkey meatballs on Tuesday (Turkey Tuesday, don’t you know!)
-Caesar salad and baked chicken pieces on Wednesday (I can make both ahead of time and then we avoid the baseball game/dance class/soccer practice rush)
-Chicken Pot Pie (that I am making this afternoon) on Thursday (another silly day: Skating, baseball practice and gymnastics all requiring that folks be somewhere by or before 6pm and then some not home until 7 or 8pm).
-Pizza (frozen for now) and salad on Friday.

 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunches will all take care of themselves with leftovers, which means I really only have to “think” for tomorrow’s lunches.  But now, I am off to check the fruit situation for the week…Might just be heading to the grocery store AGAIN before the long weekend comes to an end.

Happy Packing!