It Happens to Everyone…

mistake for dinner

This probably isn’t the best sales pitch for someone trying to build her meal planning/kitchen coaching business, but I just gotta come clean: I, Michelle Calva-Despard, made a totally gross meal the other night.

What was supposed to be my side dish of teriyaki vegetables and rice noodles turned into a soggy, doughy, mass of yuck.  I deemed my efforts inedible, which is something I haven’t done in years.   Even though the veggies and sauce were delicious, I couldn’t get over the ball of blech that it all became when I added the noodles.  These are Trader Joe’s new rice noodles, btw, which perhaps I mis-prepared… I dunno.

The good news is (this is like the part in the job interview when the interviewee turns a negative into a positive) that since I’m such an expert meal planner, I had loads of leftovers on hand and enough other easy-tasty-healthy choices to still whip up something really nice for dinner.  🙂

My husband and son did eat this mistake-of-a-meal (guys… figures!) although they both agreed it wasn’t one of my best.

And thus, I will not be sharing this recipe with you today!


After School Snacks

veggies after school

Yes, you read that title correctly:  It is the 16th of August and I’m writing about after school snacks.

Here in Pasadena, CA our school district has decided to start our school calendar so that it coincides with the absolute-most-unbearably-and-ridiculously hot time of the year, also called mid-August.

Apparently the justification for this has something to do with finishing the first trimester at winter break (which, OK, yes, makes sense) but people, if you’re so smart then tell me this: How are we supposed to go to the beach when school is in session?  Where are your priorities school board!?  Honestly!

But I digress.

I’m teaching three workshops to some super fun (haven’t met them all yet but I just know it’s true) mamas in the next couple of weeks.  I AM STOKED!  Love chatting/chillin’/coaching/supporting parents with their kitchen and table woes.

Here’s a freebie tip and you didn’t even have to pay me.  Isn’t this your lucky day?

A great time for veggies is right after school.  In our neck of the woods ’round this time of year it so dang hot that some cool, fresh snacks are soundin’ pretty tasty after a hard day of addition and capitalizing proper nouns.  Plus, if your kiddos are anything like mine, they are famished when that final bell rings and would eat a cardboard box if it was their only option.

Luckily, my kids do have an option, and it’s called “steamed broccoli, fresh carrots and tomatoes.”

That’s not what you’re hungry for child’o-mine?  Hmmm… get started on that mountain of veggies and then we’ll see what else I might have for you.

What’s that?  Your kids still won’t eat vegetables?  Your day just got luckier: I offer a workshop called “Come to the Table ” which is focused entirely on how to get the food you want into the people you love–without driving you crazy in the process.

If you want to watch your kids eat stuff like what’s in the photo above, let me know.  But that one ain’t a freebie.  😉



Meet My Meat Sauce

meat sauce

What the heck kind of “meat” is that, right?

Oh… you are all too clever for me.  You got me!  These are vegetables, of course.  But this is actually how I start my meat spaghetti sauce–with a slew of whatever seasonal veggies I have around that I can chop, saute and toss in.  Apparently celery, carrots and bell pepper are some current farmers market pics.

This is, in my humble opinion, the easiest way to get more vegetables into my family’s diet: I just put’m there!

Whenever I cook, I add more of whatever vegetables the recipe calls for, I add additional vegetables that I have around, and I add vegetables–period–whenever I can find a place for them.

When cooking a meat sauce, the vegetables take longer to cook than the meat, so if you’re winging it (like me!) you’ll want to start these colorful friends with a few tablespoons of olive oil, onion and garlic first.  After they begin to soften, grab your meat, herbs and spices and have at it.

Winging it is not without risks.  Once, years ago, when I was getting to know my crock pot during a particularly wet an chilly winter, I had the great idea to add fresh beets to my beef and vegetable stew.  I came home hours later to find a house that smelled like heaven, but a pot that looked like warm and steamy Pepto-bismal.  With chunks. 😦

I’m not a huge presentation girl, but the appearance of my simmering fuchsia pot  was so off-putting that Mike and I couldn’t even choke it down.  I’m grimacing as I write about it even now.

So, whatever.  Lesson learned.  Beets go on the side.

If you’re nervous to add uncalled for ingredients for fear you’re going to mess up dinner, try adding a little bit at first or  make a second pot on the side the first time.  It’s worth it when you see how many vegetables you can get into your family by just slippin’em in here and there.

Have a great Easter weekend–and by the way, I think my Cole slaw would go great with a baked ham!

Don’t Adjust That Dial

rainbow flower

Here we have a little something I termed “rainbow-flower” (as opposed to cauliflower) and broccoli.  My 5 year-old son accompanied me to the farmers market recently, and chose the purple and yellow cauliflower featured with our good friend, Mr. Green Broccoli.

I have seen purple cauliflower in grocery stores before, but not yellow.  It’s raw in this photo, but all these veggies retained their technicolor appeal after roasting as well.  I did my usual with a couple ‘a cloves of garlic, drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt.  Roast at a high heat (400-425) for about 25 mins.

My second grader, and resident politician, suggested we keep track of who preferred which one.  This endeavor evolved into a voting process and tally sheet which she diligently managed throughout the course of the meal.

I used to use this type of “see which one you prefer” type game to encourage sampling when my kids were little.  We don’t need a gimmick anymore, but it was still fun.

My girls acknowledged that with eyes closed, you couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow and purple cauliflower, but my stubborn little guy insisted (picture older sisters rolling their eyes, knowingly) that he could taste the different colors.  Let’s just say that it’s really not worth arguing with him (about this or much else these days…)

But anyway, what do I care?  The kid motored through his vegetables and enjoyed every bite!

DO Try This at Home!

This is Michelle’s kitchen counter on a typical Saturday morning:

Saturday spread

Ahhh…  After my weekly farmers market pilgrimage, I feel ready to start another healthy week with my family.

Routine is the key to my meal planning.  By hitting the same farmers market (usually) I know the vendors, know the prices, know what’s what.

I don’t go to the farmers market to have a Hallmark moment.  OK.  Yes it is more enjoyable to shop outdoors, purchase from local farmers and sample anything I like before I buy it.  But like a lot of mamas of three, I am, uh, kinda busy.  I don’t amble along the market, wicker basket in hand, bluebird on my shoulder.  Often I’m in a bit of a sprint between basketball and soccer games, or maybe a birthday party or heaven-knows-what!

I don’t shove and knock people out of my way, but I cruise along, big cart and reusable bags in front, and get on with my shopping.

I make this weekly trek, out and back, in about an hour.  Another 15 minutes to unload and rinse my pretty produce, and we are set for another 7 days.

And when I look down at the “fruit” of my labor, it makes my heart smile.

Heart raddish

Something Blue

something blue

Fruits and Vegetables.  We should all be eating more fruits and vegetables.  I’m assuming this sounds familiar to pretty much everyone reading this blog–if not every person reading any blog.
In season right now at my local farmer’s market are Bosc pears that we are totally diggin’ at my house.  Their brown skins make them an exotic addition to the fruit bowl.  Here in sunny southern California even these kiwis are locally grown.  You can get oranges at the farmers market too, but I don’t have to because my mom/neighbor has a tree with prolific amounts of delicious oranges.  Lucky us!
Every morning we begin our breakfast with fruit of some kind.  We prefer fresh but are not opposed to an occasional canned pineapple, peach or pears (in its own juice.)

Because I’m a time economizer, I’ve developed the format you see pictured above.  Step 1: Mommy cuts fruit on cutting board.  Step 2: Cutting board is placed on table for mass consumption.  Step 3: Three kids and husband have at it.  Step 4: Mommy–or sometimes Daddy :)–clean up said cutting board.
My two girls volunteered as hand models in the photo above–they were so excited to “show everyone how we do it at our house.”  I tried to get a shot that didn’t include the atrocious blue nail polish you see (thanks, Catalina, for the birthday party nail salon!) but couldn’t. 

But then I figured hey, this isn’t the Pottery Barn catalog.  Blue nails and all, here we are eating breakfast at my house.  Have a great day!