Monthly Archives: March 2012

Some of my old hors’d'oeuvres recipes have become favorite after school snacks. These Spinach Sticks are filled with fresh spinach and cheese. Store frozen. Bake as needed.

Spinach Stick

10-12 cups spinach leaves
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp dried dill, or 1 Tbsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp white pepper
40 sheets (14″ x 9″) Phyllo dough
olive oil

In a food processor combine spinach, cream cheese, feta, dill and pepper.
Pulse mixture till smooth. 
Transfer mixture to a food storage bag, or pastry bag. 
Lay out one sheet of phyllo dough, brush or spray with olive oil. Fold the dough in half (7″ x 9″).
Brush or spay with oil again.
Squeeze a thin line of spinach mixture along one side. Roll loosely into a cylinder (tight rolls split when baked).
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.


You’ll have about 40 sticks. freeze them layered in an air tight container with waxed paper between the layers.
No need to defrost. Bake frozen sticks at 375 degrees, 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet.

Prior our School district’s plan to serve daily breakfast consisting of packaged foods to the whole student body, our conversations about food were mundane; “can I get the recipe for that salad?, the one you brought to the barbecue.”

As controversy over the breakfast program grew, Moms (and Dads) talked about foods in more meaningful ways. We talked about preservatives, sugar, hydrogenated oil and nutrition. Through these conversations I discovered that many of the local moms thought MY children lived without most of the truly yummy foods.

The School district abandoned the program before it was implemented. But regarding my family’s “real food,” I was glad for the opportunity to set the record straight. My kids get to eat a lot of yummy things, even foods that have sugar and fat. Albeit, no fake sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, or preservatives that I can avoid.

My Fruit Yogurt – Yummy Real Food Version of a Convenience Food

Turns out, Fruit Yogurt is a popular breakfast food in my community. Kids like yogurt with fruit mixed in, my kids are no exception. I don’t buy the ready-made type from the Super Market. yogurt & strawberries

I make yogurt cups with:
  • unsweetened natural yogurt.
  • sliced fruit
  • homemade jam- if I have it. If I haven’t made jam,
    I look for a simple jam. (10g sugar per Tbsp or less)

I’m always surprised when a national brand tries to do better. I’m not sure when Welch’s started making a more natural jam. The company calls it “Natural Strawberry Spread,” but it seems like jam to me: [Ingredients: sugar, strawberries, fruit pectin, citric acid, red grape juice concentrate, natural flavor]

The last ingredient concerns me. Is it necessary to put flavor in this product? Let’s face it, jam is not a food, it’s not healthy any way you make it. I’m looking for jam that isn’t full of unnatural and unnecessary things. Lacking preservatives, the label advises that the product be consumed within 3 months. I’m fine with that.

Watch for Sodium Benzoate. Sodium benzoate is a preservative found more often in low sugar jams. Low sugar jams are more inviting to bacteria. The FDA approves the use of sodium benzoate to prevent low sugar jams from spoiling. The FDA does not however state that sodium benzoate is benign. The FDA’s position seems to be; the amount consumed in the average diet is not harmful. Others disagree. A recent British study on preservatives shows a link between behavior problems and sodium benzoate.

When I hear “safe in limited amounts,” I wonder the size and weight of the person the “amounts” are meant for. The safe amount for a person weighing 150 pounds?; 200 pounds? I doubt the ratio considers children.

My kids want it all. They want swings and slides, a pool, and a garden. No, what they want is a farm! They want to grow green peppers, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, and corn.

Last Spring, I lost control of the garden; seeds of all kind were sown in a seemingly random way. I say, “seemingly random” because when I say the garden was planted without a plan, my boys defend their “garden plan.” So I guess, I just couldn’t see their vision.

As a print designer, I arrange things. Poor composition, even in a garden, makes me cringe. I’m planning to formalize the vegetable garden space this year. As I write these words, I know any “plan” I make will be commandeered by my kids. I’m out numbered, I will probably lose control. If I’m very lucky they’ll take a shine to some of my ideas.

There are so many ways to pack planted areas in the land we have. But just using all the sunny spaces wont do. We need a plan. A plan that exist on paper, not only in the mind of a small boy. There is no shortage of printed material about garden plans. But I need a book that address my concerns about ascetics. The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler is that book.

I’m not planning to grow a row of corn next to my city sidewalk. I doubt I’ll grow any eatables in the front yard. I like her “front yard ideas” for my back yard. Incorporating curb appeal vegetables into our back yard will allow me to grow more things we can eat, without sacrificing the aesthetic qualities the space where we’ll be spending a lot of time.

The kids are starting their own garden journals, a place for them to keep their ideas. I’ve kept a garden journal for ten years. In the beginning, it was a scrapbook of all the ideas I wanted to incorporate in my outdoor space. Later, it became an archive of plant names. When one of my plants becomes a gem in the garden, I want to get more. Having complete information makes it simple to purchase additional seeds or plants. Because I want my kids to form their own ideas about what their journal could be, I’m keeping my well worn book on the shelf. For inspiration, I may show them the demo for Moleskine Passions Gardening Journal.


While we’re waiting for the soil to be ready for vegetable seeds, the kids are spending some of their garden energy staring basil and marigolds in egg cartons.

Real Time Farms
Local Food and Local Farms
Gardener's Supply Company