The secret to winning at poker and at anything in life is to have better cards. Since, I’ve been left to my own devises unexpectedly to support my children and myself without warning, I think a great deal about things like increasing my market share, and making my adventure clothing company Ocean SF attractive to investors, while leveraging my assets, and managing my resources.
The truth is the best way to win at any card game is to have better cards than the other players, this is of course a metaphor for what I am trying to do, and to me it means that I must have a better product than my competitors, and I’ve worked hard to make sure that I do, our technical mid layer jacket, is by far the best on the market.
My mother used to warn me to play my cards right. At the time, I didn’t really understand this, but now I do.
Here are some tips for life and card games:
Games are about taking risks, don’t take too many risks, but if you play too conservatively you will lose
Other players can bluff, but the person with the better hand always wins
Although I’ve been very busy with my entrepreneurial ventures and teaching at Berkeley, I’m still required to cook for my athletic teenage daughters. Cooking for athletes is different than cooking for a normal family as there are serious time constraints and, “food as fuel” is more of a practice than a concept, although I think it should be an extremely high priority for anyone feeding growing children, athletic or otherwise.
My daughter will often swim for an hour and a half. She does this after school, so she has already had a full day and has eaten next to nothing. She’s also prone to anemia, so I am always trying to pack her meals with nutrients, and they need to be iron dense. My other daughter plays soccer and has practices in the evening, so between soccer and swimming there is a tiny slice of time for dinner, and it’s around 5 p.m.
As many mothers know, teenage girls don’t eat much at lunch, which makes them very hungry when they get home from school. This is when the bad snacking is often done. I’ve tried many strategies over the years, but have recently decided to serve a quick dinner at this time when possible. I know how lucky I am to be able to have the flexibility to cook early in the day, but if you don’t, try making a double batch of this to freeze in single serving glass containers, or to serve the next day.
When the kids were little, and I was for the most part a stay-at-home mom, I could spend two hours cooking dinner, but that is no longer possible. Someday, I hope to have time to make homemade ravioli again, but for now this will have to do, and it checks the boxes of the top criteria for me. Fast, easy, hot and nutritious. Plus, they love it, which might be the most important criteria.
Begin cooking gluten free pasta as per package instructions. Then, in a large sauce pan heat the meatballs and sauce until they come to a slight boil, reduce heat and let simmer while the pasta is cooking. Once pasta is done, add to the pan and gently toss while hot. Reheats and freezes well.
I’ve saved the best for last. This is one of my most cherished recipes, and I make it over and over again for my kids and friends. I had this for the first time at Tre Vigne in St. Helena when I was 24 years old and on my first trip to the Napa Valley.
Michael Chiarello, now a very famous chef, vintner, TV host and sustainable farmer with his own restaurant, Bottega in Yountville, was the chef. I still love this restaurant and had lunch there on my birthday this year (December, 2015).
Back then this entrée cost only $8, and we had lunch on the beautiful Tra Vigne patio. I was with my sister, Sandra Sheehan and my Auntie Deborah. It was a hot summer day and there is nowhere on earth more pleasant than the Napa Valley in the heart of the wine country in the summer. What bliss. I returned many times and I always ordered this dish until it was taken off the menu a few years ago, but I highly recommend the Maltagliati Verde (herb infused pasta with slow cooked lamb) which we had on my last visit.
After the kids were born, I couldn’t make it to Tra Vigne as often, so I taught myself how to make Michael’s recipe at home, and my kids love it too. It’s perfect in a pinch when you find yourself with 12 unexpected and very hungry kids for dinner (double the recipe below), add a salad and some crunchy bread.
As for Michael Chiarello, he can still be found at the stove and was gracious enough to join us (on the patio of course) one afternoon at his restaurant Bottega for lunch. He will forever remain one of my favorite chefs and inspirations.
Thank you Michael Chiarello!
▪ 1 lb of pasta
▪ 2 tablespoons of olive oil
▪ ½ lb chopped prosciutto, pancetta or bacon (shown)
▪ 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
▪ 1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen
▪ ½ stick of unsalted butter
▪ ½ cup of heavy whipping cream
▪ Parmesan cheese, as needed
Boil the pasta, as per the package directions, and then begin making the sauce.
Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven to medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, then the chopped prosciutto and garlic. Brown lightly. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the ham and garlic mixture. Then, add the butter and cream and reduce heat to low. Stir gently until the ingredients are well combined. Add the cream, fresh grated parmesan cheese, stir well and reduce for 5 minutes. Serve immediately in a warm bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.
I’ve made this 12 times over the last six months and both of my daughters still adore it. I pack it with whatever vegetables are in season, so what’s not to love?
My 16 year old especially asks for this every time I cook. As I’ve written before, my daughters both love Asian food, and I am much more of an Italian food flavor person. However, the virtues of this dish are endless. It is very healthy, low fat, gluten free (if you use gluten free soy sauce), packed with veggies, easy to make, can be eaten hot or cold and reheats beautifully. This is an all around winner, but you have been warned, if you make it once you will get to make over and over again.
Ingredients for the Sauce:
2 Teaspoons sesame oil
4 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce – stock
3 Tablespoons lime juice or 2 limes squeezed in pan
3 Tablespoons tangerine juice or 2 tangerines squeezed in pan
2 Tablespoons chopped or grated fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
Ingredients for the Pad Thai:
8 oz. Pad Thai noodles
½ lb. thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1. In a glass bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. You can cook the rice noodles by submerging them in a bowl of warm water until they are tender or let them sit while you do the following steps.
3. Heat a large wok and add sesame oil. When oil is hot add the chicken and ginger and cook until chicken is white.
4. Add vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes so they are still crunchy. Remove the pan from heat and toss in the noodles and sauce. Toss well to combine. Garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts and serve warm.
*I do not use egg in my Pad Thai because my children do not like it, but if you would like to add it then scramble one egg along with the chicken and ginger in step 4.
Most teen athletes make the mistake of focusing on calories when it is nutrient dense foods that should be the focus. Foods packed with vitamins and minerals are needed for a body that is growing and competing simultaneously.
My older daughter doesn’t look that easy to kill, in fact a boy she goes to school with said she looks exactly how he imagines Joan of Arc to have looked. She is tall and powerfully built and possesses a warrior mentality. But like most kids she is actually very fragile. Last year she was playing club volleyball and swimming, so she was clocking 2 plus hours of intense physical activity per day, and an extra 4-5 hours on the week-ends as an outside hitter for Absolute in Marin County.
In February, I noticed that she was looking a little green. Because I am her mother, I knew there was something not quite right with how she looked, so I took her to the doctor. Naturally, as mother always knows best, she was diagnosed with severe anemia. The doctor started her on medication and she left the next day for Colorado Cross Roads, which in the volleyball world is a pretty big deal and a place where I spend more time with my closest friends from California than I do in California.
All was well, until one of the players became ill with the Noro virus and the team slowly dropped like dominos. My daughter – a hold out was able to get home and miss the cocophay of vomiting in the bathrooms on the Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Oakland, but then succumbed to the illness and spent nine, yes “9” days in bed.
Because her immune system was compromised by the anemia her recovery was very slow. Her pediatrician had to prescribe drugs for cancer patients to stop the vomiting. So, needless to say, I watch this girl closely now. I can tell if she is dehydrated or even if she has a head ache. So, keeping my little warrior well fed is a number one priority. And since she just wants to eat burgers and french fries it can be a challenge to get her to eat her vegetables, so I created this recipe for her. Needless to say, she ate the entire pan and I couldn’t have cared less.
Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas for the Teen Athlete
1 red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium zucchini cut into rounds
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 package corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups red enchilada sauce (I bought a jar made by a local company and it was excellent)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups Mexican shredded cheese
Garnishes: fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and place sliced vegetables in a single layer and roast for 30 minutes or until they look lightly toasted.
3. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
4. Allow vegetables to cool so you can work with them. Then heat your sauce in a shallow pan until warm.
5. Add a small amount of sauce to the bottom of a large baking dish.
6. Place corn tortilla in the warm sauce and saturate both sides. Remove and fill with vegetables, black beans and cheese. Roll and place in pan. Repeat.
7. Once all of the tortillas are rolled, add the remaining sauce from the pan, sprinkle cheese and cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.
On a recent Friday evening, even though I had a free ticket to the Pancake and Bacon fundraiser dinner at the local Junior High, I opted to stay home with the teens.
Earlier in the day, I had made my younger daughter a pot of her favorite Tuscan/Asian soup (there are several versions of this on this blog and in my cookbook) hoping to put most of it in the freezer in single serving containers, so she would have something to eat before soccer practice. A toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sourdough bread, although I love this too, isn’t a great dinner for a girl with a 1.5 hour round trip commute and a 2 hour practice. She practices twice a week, so I am always trying to come up with nutritious and filling on-the-go dinners for her.
The teens were happy I had plans for the evening and had invited friends over. At first, they said it would be one friend and then it was five. I like the kids having friends over, but they are often hungry and luckily I had this on the stove. Normally, I would do what a normal mother would do – order pizza, but the soup (this is actually almost a stew) was ready. And I have to say they loved it. One of the football players said, “This is the best soup I’ve ever had.” This is my favorite kind of compliment. Because the athletes liked this so much I wanted to share this spring variation and photos with you.
Spring Variation – Asian/Tuscan Soup for Teens
2 Whole Foods handmade sausages (Ginger and Soy)
1/2 white onion finely diced
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1 cup carrots diced
2 cups organic chicken broth (see my homemade recipe in my book Real Food for Real People – Amazon)
1 can of tomato sauce (15 oz.)
2 cans (15 oz.) Cannellini beans rinsed
1 cup frozen cubed butternut squash (Whole Foods carries a nice size package)
2 zucchini cubed
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. In a large soup or stock pot sauté sausage for 1 minute, and then add garlic and onion. The sausage has enough fat that you don’t need olive oil and starting the sausage first will help ensure you do not scorch the garlic. While these ingredients are browning you can chop the veggies.
2. Once the sausage is brown and the onions translucent add the ginger, carrots, broth, tomato sauce and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 min.
3. Add the beans and frozen veggies and heat through.
4. Add the cubed zucchini last and cook for about five minutes. Be careful not to overcook the zucchini as it will get very soft.
5. Salt and pepper to taste.
6. Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
This soup reheats and freezes extremely well. Freeze in single serving glass containers for easy reheating.
I shop for food like other women shop for shoes. It is my passion and the highlight of my day. I have always been like this. Even when I was in high school and my mom would send me to the grocery store. I love food. And I especially love going to Whole Foods. I love everything about this place. It is my very favorite store in the world and on this occasion I was talking with the sales person that stands in the area where they sell all of the supplements. I love that there is always someone there to help you with whatever problem you might have. I was looking for a protein drink for my younger daughter who is mostly a vegetarian. I was worried about her because she had been doing double soccer work outs. I always think she looks really thin, but in reality she is a perfect weight for her height and is amazingly strong. I am her mother and if I want to worry I can.
The sales person said, “It’s different cooking for athletes isn’t it?” She had noticed that I was also buying a ton of veggies, chicken and yogurt. And yes it is different, but still I think every child should eat really healthy food, but families with athletic kids have the challenge of not always being able to sit down to a normal meal due to varied practice times. One child has practice from 5-7 and the other from 7-9. I also have this sense, as a mother, that kids who practice at a high level for two hours should have a really good meal before and after.
For a while I made a lot of hot sandwiches (think chicken, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce), which the girls loved until they didn’t anymore, and then I switched to cold wraps (chicken caesar was popular for a long time). Before that I frequently made soup and the White Bean soup in my cookbook (Real Food for Real People – Amazon) was a giant hit. In the summer I make salads and stash them in the fridge and then broil some fish when I get a chance or I make a few pounds of chicken and serve it with salad or with this delicious sauce that is packed with fresh herbs. It is great on anything (chicken, fish, steak or brown rice).
As the girls get more and more competitive athletically I have to work harder to make sure they are getting the proper fuel to help them do their best. Last summer I asked my younger daughter what she wanted for lunch and she surprisingly said, “I want whatever will make me run faster.”
I love soups for athletes, but they can be tricky. Kids are not always excited for a bowl of soup. But some soups are more popular with kids than others and this one is always a winner. I make it all the time. The ginger in the soup is a natural anti-inflamitory, so it is good for kids that have injuries or knee problems like my daughter. This is an update on my classic Italian White Bean soup, but any soup with beans will provide long lasting lean protein for your child. These soups also freeze amazingly well. I store them in small containers, so I can defrost a single portion for them to (sadly) take in the car.
I have been experimenting with juicing and it’s an easy way to load the kids (and myself) up with the nutrients found in leafy greens. Especially, the very iron dense, but kid dreaded, spinach and kale. The girls really like the sweeter green juices, so I add pear and tangerine. Apples and carrots are good, but the pear and tangerine are especially delicious.
By the way, I ended up not buying her a powdered protein drink and went back to food as the proper fuel for a growing athlete. It takes planning to keep our kids healthy and well fed, but it is so worth it.