Counting Our Veggies

Please join us as we focus on learning about and trying one vegetable each week.


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Week Three: Pick a Pepper Color

“Red peppers are good. Yellow peppers are good. Orange peppers are the best!”

We tested the kids’ bell pepper theory today.

The kids have always said they like the orange bell peppers the best. We usually buy a pack of six peppers containing two of each color. We slice them all up and keep them in the same container. At meal time, they keep track to make sure that they are not being shortchanged on orange pepper distribution.

We decided to do a taste test to see if they really could tell the difference. Everyone wore a blindfold for the test and there was no peeking.

Josie went first. She was correct on the orange and the yellow, but thought that the red was orange.

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Theo went second. He guessed orange for all three, getting one right.

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Lucie went third. She got them all wrong, but had fun guessing.

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Finally, the kids insisted that I give it a try. I got them all right!

Although there is not a huge difference, I think the red peppers are the sweetest and the yellow peppers are the least sweet, tasting more like a green bell pepper than the red or orange.

We had a fun game and the kids decided that they now think the red, orange and yellow bell peppers all taste about the same. Our left over test peppers were soon devoured! I think playing games with veggies is a great way to encourage kids to eat them.  In the future, a “guess the vegetable” game could be fun.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

The pepper game was very fun today. I found out that all the peppers tasted about the same.


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Week Three: Red, Orange & Yellow Bell Peppers

After two weeks of rather challenging vegetables, we decided to go with something we know and love. My kids love red, orange and yellow bell peppers. I keep a container of sliced bell pepper strips in the refrigerator for them to snack on. Sometimes they eat them plain, sometimes with salad dressing or hummus. We frequently eat them for lunch and pack them in lunch boxes. The kids think the orange ones taste the best. I think we should do a blind taste test to check that theory sometime. Anyway, we definitely have two thumbs up ratings from everyone in our family about raw bell peppers. So, this week we decided to try cooking with them.

Since we all love bell peppers, I figured we could manage a dairy-free recipe to start the week, so that Theo could try it. No need to smother the peppers with cheese in order to make them tolerable! We chose stir-fried honey ginger chicken with peppers from marthastewart.com. I had the bell peppers already sliced and the chicken prepared. I decided to add baby portabello mushrooms to the recipe and I had those ready, too. I had ginger and garlic minced and waiting to add to the skillet.

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I felt so organized as I began to prepare this recipe. Then, my printer quit working, so I had to go back and forth from the kitchen to the computer to read the recipe. Then, I found out that I did not have the rice vinegar. How can the right kind of vinegar not be in this ridiculous vinegar assortment?

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I went with the white wine vinegar.

Soon, I found out that I had forgotten to take the chicken out of the skillet before cooking the veggies, like the recipe says. Oops… I figured I would make Minute-Rice while the chicken and veggies were cooking. Um. Where was the Minute-Rice? I was just sure I saw a red box in the pantry. Arg. That box was a cake mix. Here were our rice choices:

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I chose the black rice. But, it didn’t exactly take 5 minutes to make. It took 35 minutes. So, the rice was ready long after the chicken and veggies. In the end, it all ended up cooked. It smelled great and the kids came running to the table.

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Upon seeing their lunch, some of my tasters were in a great mood.

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And some were not.

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“Mama, why did you ruin the peppers by cooking them? And MUSHROOMS? I HATE mushrooms! They are slimy!”

Here is a summary of ratings for this recipe:

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I really liked this dish. If I could make any changes, it would be to use less honey. I thought it was a bit on the sweet side. The kids all liked the chicken, but Josie did not like the cooked peppers or mushrooms. Theo and Lucie asked for seconds and thirds! We ended up without any leftovers.

If you ever see the black rice in the grocery store, give it a try. It turns dark purple when you cook it and tastes pretty much like regular rice, but contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins, which are also found in blueberries, eggplant and other red and purple fruits and vegetables, have antioxidant properties.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

Today we ate red, orange and yellow peppers. We tried a new recipe with them. I give it two thumbs up. This was my favorite recipe so far and I want to make it again. I am especially glad that Theo liked it. I think Josie would have liked it better if she was in a better mood.


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Week Two: Belgian Endive with Red Bell Pepper and Prosciutto

Monday’s attempt at Belgian endive got two thumbs down from Lucie and Josie and Theo missed out on trying it. We had planned to try again with a recipe involving cooking this veggie, but then we saw a recipe for Belgian endive with red bell pepper and prosciutto from FOOD52. The recipe calls for sauteing the red bell pepper strips with garlic and olive oil, but since my kids love raw red bell pepper, we decided to use them raw.

The way we made this was very simple. First, cut the red pepper into strips. Then, cut the end off the endive and separate the leaves, so that they look like little boats. (California Endive Farms has a nice video about Belgian endive which includes a demonstration of how we prepared our endive leaves.) Next, put a few strips of pepper into the endive boat and then wrap the whole thing with a piece of prosciutto. That’s it!

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I said, “Theo, would you like to try a red pepper boat for a snack?” Theo ran to the kitchen and took possession of ALL the red pepper boats.

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Poor Josie! She thought he would eat them all before she could try one.

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It turns out, he didn’t really care for them. He left them to his sisters after trying just one bite.

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Lucie and Josie carefully tasted  our new Belgian endive snack.

Josie decided that one bite was enough, but did offer to eat more plain prosciutto.

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Lucie gave this combination two thumbs up and insisted that I make her another plate full. She succeeded in eating all the Belgian endive that we had left, so we may not have another recipe this week. I think the sweetness of the red bell pepper and the saltiness of the prosciutto were a great combination with the Belgian endive’s slightly bitter flavor. These would be great to pack in lunch boxes and I definitely plan to make them again.

Did you know that Belgian endive is part of the chicory family? It is related to radicchio, curly endive, frisee and escarole, as well as those blue flowers that grow along the side of the road. Be sure to read about the interesting practice of growing Belgian endive at California Endive Farms’ website.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

We tried Belgian endive and pepper wrapped in prosciutto. I give it two thumbs up. I might like to try more endive recipes someday.


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Week Two: Belgian Endive

Today we went to Hy-Vee. Their produce section is really spectacular. To me, it’s kind of like the Von Maur of produce sections. Even my kids get really excited to see all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. They always want to buy one of everything. Today, they wanted more fennel. I told them maybe next week…

Our mission today was to see if they had Belgian endive. My goal with this week’s vegetable selection is to recreate my favorite salad from Timpone’s in Urbana, IL. Their menu lists it as “Warm Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad”, but a good part of the actual salad is Belgian endive, which I have never noticed in a store, let alone purchased or prepared. This salad consists of arugula, Belgian endive and a spicy tomato vinaigrette dressing, topped with a warm piece of goat cheese and served with yummy garlic toast. We were lucky that Hy-Vee had a nice little pile of Belgain endive. Now, the challenging part of this endeavor was to come up with some version of their spicy tomato vinaigrette.

After some thought and some Googling, I found this dressing recipe, from Simply Scratch, and decided to give it a try. I added a clove of garlic for good measure. Lucie and I thought that the dressing tasted pretty good on its own.

Lucie was all smiles when it came time to prepare the endive. She though it was a cute little vegetable.

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She is also a big fan of goat cheese and garlic bread, so I thought she would love this recipe.

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The moment of truth: Lucie said, “Whoa! Mama, this is bitter! I do not like endive!”

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At least, she was happy eating the goat cheese and garlic toast.

Overall, I thought our experiment today was a pretty good substitute for my favorite salad at Timpone’s. The salad dressing isn’t quite right, but I would definitely eat it again.

I am hopeful that another attempt at Belgian endive might win Lucie over. Maybe cooking it in some way will be helpful, as it was with fennel. Take a look at our Pinterest board for Belgian endive to see what we are considering for later this week.

I will leave you with this picture because it makes me laugh. It shows Lucie reading to Theo from, “The Veggie Book“, as she calls it. Theo is having quite a reaction to whatever Lucie is describing to him. Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants is the book they are reading from. She just loves reading it!

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Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

We tried Belgian endive today. I give it two thumbs down. I didn’t like it because it was bitter. I might like it if we cook it, or fry it or try it in another way. I am still excited about trying many other vegetables.


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Week One: Two More Fennel Recipes

Lucie had been looking forward to our next fennel cooking event. I had not. I was pretty sure that I would not like fennel, no matter what we did to it. Lucie chose a recipe for Fontina, Fennel and Onion Pizza from Martha Stewart and I chose Green Beans with Sauteed Fennel from cooksmart.com. Lucie’s choice seemed hopeful. Add enough fontina cheese to something, and it will probably be at least edible. I was hoping that more green beans and less fennel would the make recipe I chose tolerable.

Saturday afternoon. Time to face another bulb of fennel. I was thinking, “At least I can ban this stuff from my kitchen after today.”

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I thought it would be a good idea for the kids to taste raw fennel.

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Does Josie look worried? She may have taken a small bite. She definitely gave raw fennel two thumbs down. Lucie took a bite and decided she did not like it. Theo gobbled his up, smiling the whole time. After hearing what his sisters thought, he decided on a negative rating. I think he may have been influenced by popular opinion. Dave thought it tasted like raw celery with some flavor and said he would eat it as a snack. I had my bite of raw fennel on Sunday and I wasn’t going to try it again.

We started with the pizza. I used a pizza dough recipe that I saw online this morning from the Wall Street Journal. I made it according to the directions. Then, I prepared the Caramelized Fennel and Onions for the pizza. I have to admit, the fennel started smelling better when combined with onions.

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While they were cooking, the fennel and onions began to smell wonderful. After drizzling the pizza crust with the herb olive oil, I added the fennel and onions and then topped it with shredded fontina cheese. Yum! I was thinking, “Surely fontina cheese will make fennel tolerable.” Martha Stewart’s recipe calls for adding some fennel fronds on top of the pizza. I decided to leave this off. No need to get crazy with the fennel.

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Theo wandered into the kitchen. He wondered what was cooking, but decided against sampling any of the cooked veggies.

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We baked the pizza on a pizza stone at 500 degrees F until the crust was golden and the cheese was bubbly.

While the pizza was baking, I made the Green Beans with Sauteed Fennel.

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This recipe, presented by Jess on cooksmarts.com, was very quick and easy to make.

By the time the green beans were ready, the pizza was ready, too.

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Lucie was very excited to begin tasting. Josie refused to enter the kitchen. That bit of raw fennel was a shock to her system. Poor Joz. Theo’s supper was bread sticks made from the other half of the pizza dough recipe, since both of these recipes contained dairy. I’m pretty sure he would not have eaten them, even if they had been dairy-free.

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Lucie loved the pizza and gave it two thumbs up.

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She gave the green beans with sauteed fennel two thumbs to the side. This means she didn’t mind taking a few bites, but she didn’t really like it. Josie finally decided to try a few bites. She ate the pizza after picking off the fennel. She tried a bit of the green beans, but that was it. Dave and I loved both of the fennel recipes that we tried today. I even like the fennel pieces in the green beans. The flavors seem to complement one another and I didn’t notice the licorice taste at all. I think we will make both of these recipes in the future. I am really surprised to be saying that!

Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest if you want to see more veggie recipes that we are exploring.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

We tried two new recipes. We tried green beans with fennel. We also tried fennel pizza. I give the green beans with fennel two thumbs to the side. I give the fennel pizza two thumbs up. I tried raw fennel, too. I give raw fennel two thumbs down. I really like that we are trying new vegetables and recipes.


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Week One: Learning About Fennel

In addition to tasting new vegetables, we also want to learn more about the vegetables we are consuming. While reading about fennel online, I discovered a book that I thought would be a good reference tool for our vegetable project Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants by National Geographic has pictures and descriptions of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs and spices. The kids have been in love with it since it arrived from amazon.com. I am very surprised at just how exciting they find it. They especially enjoy looking the pictures and asking me if I have ever tasted this fruit or that vegetable. Inspired by its colorful pictures of exotic fruits, Lucie and Josie are already making plans for a fruit tasting project in 2015.

We were surprised to find fennel in the herb section, instead of the vegetable section, of our new book. We learned that fennel is part of the parsley family and has the botanical name Foeniculum vulgare. (I can see where they get the “vulgare” part…) The bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds are all edible and different parts of fennel are used in different recipes. The distinctive flavor of fennel comes from the aromatic compound anethole.  Anethole is also found in anise and is used to flavor many licorice-type candies.

Pinterest is a great place to organize our veggie recipes. We are collecting recipes and information about fennel and the other vegetables we will be exploring in our Pinterest account. You can see what we have collected at http://www.pinterest.com/countingveggies/. We pinned a nice tip from Nosh On It explaining how to clean and cut fennel. This would have been helpful to read before we made our first recipe.

Lucie is still deciding on another fennel recipe to try. She is considering a fennel and onion pizza or some kind of fennel salad. Maybe I will have a better opinion of fennel after our next tasting.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen

P.S.

A few words from Lucie:

I’m going to go find someplace quiet to read my new veggie book. I can’t wait for next week’s new vegetable!


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Week One: Fennel

Lucie and I picked up a bulb of fennel at Whole Foods today. I had seen a recipe for baked fennel on Pinterest and had pinned it for some reason. I must have forgotten that fennel tastes and smells like licorice. I hate licorice.

Luckily, Lucie is very open-minded and has no opinion of licorice. I followed the recipe, except I only used one half of the fennel bulb and I forgot to add the thyme. It did start smelling better while it was baking. I’m sure the addition of butter and cheese didn’t hurt.

Lucie thought it smelled delicious.

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She was very excited to try it.

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She tasted it very carefully

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And then she gobbled it up!

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She gives it two thumbs up and wants to make this recipe again.

Other family member reviews of Baked Fennel with Parmesan and Thyme:

  • Josie took one bite. She said it was good and she thinks she would eat it again.
  • Dave, who likes licorice, thought it was very tasty.
  • I thought it was just ok. The baked fennel was definitely milder and more pleasant tasting than the tiny bite of raw fennel that I tried.
  • We could not offer any to Theo since this recipe contained dairy.

We saved the fennel tops and the other half of the bulb and hope to try another recipe or two later in the week. We also plan to learn more about the fennel plant and why it tastes like licorice.

Thanks for visiting,

Jen