Heater, Mother of Lance

With fire extinguisher at the ready

One of my resolutions for this year is to cook more, and I know it’s not as glamorous as attempting to taste sixty different species of walnuts grown only in the southern part of Brazil. But I’ve got a toddler who routinely throws her head against the wall and a seven-year-old asking questions like, “What’s a quorum?” Those walnuts sound delicious, but sometimes being a parent means you have to aim low.

Cook more. That’s it. I’m not particularly interested in doing anything exotic or rolling my own sushi, I just want to have a hearty meal at dinner time that I didn’t take out of the freezer and shove in the oven. Although we still do that on the weekends, but the weekends are for cheating anyway. Weekends are chocolate pop tarts for breakfast, taking turns napping through lunch, and then eating cake batter for dinner in the pajamas we’re still wearing from the night before. God did not invent weekends for whole wheat.

So I’ve been looking for simple recipes I could introduce to the family. And that includes World’s Pickiest Eater, Leta Doesn’t Eat White Bread Armstrong. You think your child could out picky Leta? Would your child refuse a chocolate cupcake because it was sitting next to a vanilla one? WINNNNNING.

During my research I came across this awesome pasta recipe that tastes totally gourmet but only takes ten minutes to make:

I can’t find the original recipe, but I always modify everything I cook anyway. It basically goes like this: while the pasta is cooking dump a half cup of Asiago cheese, a few cloves of minced garlic, a couple spoonfuls of thyme, a few pinches of sea salt and as many tomatoes as people eating the meal into a giant bowl. Once the pasta is cooked, dump it into the bowl and stir. Caution: the raw garlic may make you unpopular with your friends for several hours afterward.

Bright side? You’re safe from vampires for the night.

No, Leta won’t even look in the general direction of garlic or thyme, so we set aside a bowl of noodles for her and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Okay, a lot of Parmesan cheese. Enough that she doesn’t have to taste the actual pasta. BUT SHE’S EATING PASTA! If ever there were a cause for multiple exclamation points, THIS ONE’S IT!!!

(I’d planned on using those once Brad Pitt returned my email, but I guess he’s busy.)

  • subjectivitis

    2011/03/15 at 3:09 pm

    Have you ever tried the recipes at kevinandamanda.com? They’re pretty good and super easy. My favorites include the bacon, avocado and chicken quesadillas and her chocolate cake.

  • The Dalai Mama

    2011/03/15 at 3:17 pm

    Awesome–sounds so good. I love it simple. I don’t have advice for picky eaters, my son will eat most things or at least try most things and my daughter could be a goat–she will eat ANYTHING.

    Raw garlic is welcome at our house

  • ozonelayer

    2011/03/15 at 3:19 pm

    That looks really good and easy to make, Heather. I think I will try it. Yes, your child out picky(s) mine. lol at Winning 🙂

  • lamamatogng

    2011/03/15 at 3:19 pm

    Heather, I’m thrilled to introduce to you to the fabulous, humorous and culinarily gifted (you know what I mean) Catherine Newman. Perhaps you two are already connected. Anyway, Catherine has got oodles of yummy (and family friendly) recipes on her blog at Dalai Mama Dishes (www.family.go.com). She’s an amazing writer, too. Hope you have fun getting to know one another!

  • gradstudentsarepeopletoo

    2011/03/15 at 3:39 pm

    I do something similar as a quick and easy meal, but with goat cheese instead of asiago and fresh basil (when I can get it) instead of thyme. Yum.

  • gidge

    2011/03/15 at 3:44 pm

    I do something similiar as well, with some fresh basil and some crumbled up italian sausage, just cooked in some olive oil, then add everything else. Yum!

  • carina

    2011/03/15 at 4:07 pm

    For a non food blogger, these are some gorgeous food photos. But yes, whole wheat pasta, veggies, cheese = weeknight delicious!

  • knittyknatty

    2011/03/15 at 4:24 pm

    For simple cooking, I can’t recommend Laurie Colwin’s books enough.

  • npevey

    2011/03/15 at 4:49 pm

    Laurie Colwin is one of my favorite authors. I miss her.

  • tallnoe

    2011/03/15 at 4:49 pm

    I think it’s great that you’re trying to cook at home more.

    And, I think it’s really hard to cook at home for only myself. I don’t like it. I would rather have people turn up their nose than just eat it alone. It’s not as fun.

    That said… GOOD LUCK! HAVE FUN!!

  • DomesticRockstar

    2011/03/15 at 5:12 pm

    My son is just as picky if not more. He won’t eat GUMMI WORMS. What 4 year old won’t eat GUMMI WORMS? He also won’t eat pizza because it’s “dirty”. He won’t touch any meat other than chicken nuggets and they have to be the frozen nuggets you heat up, not the nuggets from any fast food place. He’s living off chicken nuggets and french fries, just hand me the mother of the year award now…thank you!

  • lacochino

    2011/03/15 at 5:13 pm


  • latinforpayattention

    2011/03/15 at 5:19 pm

    Yum! That looks great. I make something similar. Parsley instead of thyme, peas instead of tomatoes, add a squeeze of lemon.

  • rIAm

    2011/03/15 at 6:35 pm

    Oh god! First, you teach Kim Kardashian how to change diapers on national tv, then you become queen of the mommy bloggers, and now you are aiming for Martha’s crown… is there nothing you won’t aim to be the valedictorian at?

    p.s. so when are you appearing on The Martha Stewart Show?

  • kycarrie

    2011/03/15 at 6:37 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed the recipes on weelicious.com. Some of the ingredients are intimidating, but I’ve been able to easily modify them. For the most part the recipes are easy and really tasty!

  • max

    2011/03/15 at 6:39 pm

    Awesome pictures!

    My sister and I have a webshow based on cheap, local foods.


  • sarahac

    2011/03/15 at 7:41 pm

    Hmm I wonder if my 8 yo could out pickiness Leta. No fruits. One baby carrot, raw, per day. No sauces EVER. No mac’n’cheese, no pizza, no smoothies, no muffins.

    I have placed favorite desserts on the table during dinner. She will walk away from that rather than try one bite of dinner.

  • momofwildones

    2011/03/15 at 7:45 pm

    That sounds delicious. I have one that will not eat hot dogs or mac and cheese.


  • mmoxxie

    2011/03/15 at 7:46 pm

    Winning: a song by Charlie Sheen.

  • Jenni

    2011/03/15 at 8:09 pm

    My dad used to tell people I was going to have to register for Chinet when I got married because I would flip my shiz if my food touched. He’d stand behind me in line at Thanksgiving, take his fork and push my food around on my plate.

    My lovely daughter wants to “save everything for later” or says, “I don’t like peanut butter.” Well, then. QUIT eating my Reese cups. Yeesh.

    Good luck to you.

  • Ratatosk

    2011/03/15 at 8:38 pm

    My picky eater has a fear of gravy, butter, sloppy joes and mashed potatoes. One thanksgiving he ate a bowl of cocoa puffs. He LOVES aged cheese though — I have to buy 3 year old aged white cheddar and other varieties of cheese.

    He recently discovered bacon, so I found a recipe for bacon chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately WE loved them, him not so much. Yag!

  • burkeabee

    2011/03/15 at 9:01 pm

    Ree Drummond is the way to go for recipes.

  • vjl0027

    2011/03/15 at 9:38 pm

    Heather, I don’t know if you can relate, but I can’t stand how boring it is waiting for the water to boil for pasta. So my favorite approach is to make pasta bakes. The big advantage is that you can cook dry pasta this way. Yes, dry. Toss with some olive oil, then mix it with a sauce, doubling the liquid (I usually add wine, broth, or water to increase the volume of liquid). All you do is stick it in the oven and stir once or twice. The pasta absorbs the liquid instead of just plain water so it’s much tastier. But I love it because it’s easy. Here’s a basic recipe: http://karmafreecooking.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/the-easiest-baked-penne-ever/. This one is for mac & cheese: http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/10/cheddar-and-elbows-exalted/. (FYI someone decided this method needed a fancy name so it’s aka “absorption pasta”). And finally, the easiest blueberry bread pudding, made in the microwave: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/fast-and-easy-blueberry-bread-pudding-recipe. Enjoy your adventures in the kitchen!

  • dolphy36

    2011/03/15 at 9:51 pm

    I am blessed with a kid who eats most things I put in front of him, thankfully, but my friend’s daughter? She eats…peanut butter, pancakes, and french fries. Oh, yeah…and she drinks milk. Herein concludes her personal menu. So Leta is rockin out on the pasta!

  • AniTd

    2011/03/15 at 10:13 pm

    Just read this today – maybe Leta is just a “supertaster”?


    I used to be an INCREDIBLY picky eater, not unhealthy, just the type who separates food by colour etc. I grew out of it. Slowly.

  • Oakgirl

    2011/03/15 at 10:33 pm

    This sounds great! It you don’t like the taste of completely raw garlic, you can either put a little of the boiling water in the bottom of the big bowl (like 2 tablespoons), with the garlic to let it cook a bit. Or when the pasta is done, dump the garlic in the boiling water for just a second before you drain it. My stomach can’t take raw garlic but I love it anyway.

  • haggardmom

    2011/03/15 at 11:18 pm

    @DomesticRockstar- mine won’t eat gummi worms either. Or gummi anything, including vitamins. He will eat chewable fish oil though, so ?? 🙂
    Also, my son has a thing for plate garnishes… be it kale, parsley, or lettuce, he almost always eats his plate garnish in restaurants. However, he will not eat those things at home. Go figure!

    Right now, my 8 year old is shunning all cheese that is not yellow. Despite repeated explanation as to why the cheese is yellow, and how our white cheese is EXACTLY THE SAME.

  • luv and kiwi

    2011/03/15 at 11:42 pm

    “God did not invent weekends for whole wheat.”

    It’s lines like this that keep me coming back for more.


    Thank you.

  • Mama to Henry

    2011/03/16 at 6:15 am

    Chicken Enchilada Bake – an easy one dish meal you can make ahead of time.

    1. To make the sauce: Mix together in a medium bowl, one 6 ounce container fat free Greek yogurt, 1 cup salsa, 2tsp chili powder, 1 (10 and 3/4 ounce) can condensed fat free or 98% fat free cream of chicken soup. Hot sauce optional.

    2. Add 1 cup of the above mixture to 2 cups cooked chicken (I used 2 ten ounce cans of chunk chicken and shredded it with my fingers) and 1/2 cup shredded mexican-type cheese. Instead of 2 cups of chicken, I have also used black beans or a mix of the two.

    3. Heat 6 tortillas (can use whole wheat, if it’s not the weekend) to get them pliable (6 inch round)

    4. Divide the mixture evenly amongst the 6 tortillas, rolling them up and placing them in a 11X8 or so shallow pan (I used my pyrex dish)

    5. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchilladas and (top with additional shredded cheese, or parmesan cheese to your child’s liking) bake covered at 350 degrees for around 40 minutes.


  • filmlady

    2011/03/16 at 8:00 am

    A picky child has no business putting parmesan cheese on ANYthing. That is the nastiest stuff EVER made, and smells just like barf (at least to MY sensitive nose!)

  • Figtron

    2011/03/16 at 8:35 am

    I adore pasta, and asiago cheese.

    Too bad I can’t have any until after the wedding…in June. No one wants to see a bride that looks like Jabba the Hut.

  • Tanzie F. Nielsen

    2011/03/16 at 8:50 am

    My 8 y.o. hates cheese. Do I win?

  • speckleofdirt

    2011/03/16 at 9:21 am

    Here is a quick and easy to remember recipe for Creamy Chicken Casserole. I’m terrible at memorizing so I had to come up with something easy. Hope it works on the picky eaters in your house!


  • cdpeterson

    2011/03/16 at 10:21 am

    My 4 1/2 year old daughter would eat PLAIN rotini pasta (if she sees you put ANYTHING on it she won’t eat it) and medium sized already cooked, devained & peeled shrimp every night if I let her. My only other options are pizza, (cheese only), mcdonalds, chic-fil-a, cereal or as a last resort spaghetti-o’s (no meatballs & preferably the abc ones). Veggies are tomatoes, celery (does that even count?) or carrots. I like to think french fries are good for her b/c they’re potatoes? I can so relate with you when you talk about Leta’s eating habits. Good luck! I will be following your progress to get pointers!

  • Kris Mulkey

    2011/03/16 at 10:28 am

    Every one of my daughter’s picky friends love this. I often substitute jarred sauce instead of the home-made sauce. The turkey meatballs are what the girls love. http://tinyurl.com/4qcn3pf

  • cdpeterson

    2011/03/16 at 10:30 am

    P.S. the rotini pasta can only be the wheat-no colored rotini allowed. I may have to try your receipe-minus everything but pasta & tomatoes. Although, she’s funny about her food touching, so she may not even like that. We’ll see!

  • Pearl Berries

    2011/03/16 at 11:05 am

    She’s eating pasta!! YAY!!

    You know, I have a recipe for butter noodles that is outstanding and embarassingly easy. My son, who tolerates noodles only because he will starve otherwise, loves it. Our family of 4 ate an entire pound of pasta the other night. We have NEVER done that!

    So, the quick and dirty is:

    1 lb thin spaghetti

    1 stick butter (okay, I use a little more but it tends to be too much and I imagine you could decrease it but why would you??)

    As much garlic as you can tolerate, chopped, pressed, whatever (I use the jarred stuff because it is easy)

    Fresh ground pepper and salt

    Finely chopped bacon or prosciutto (optional)

    The secret to this is to brown the butter with the garlic and then throw in the meat and spices. Toss it with the spaghetti and devour.

  • Chez Sanderosa

    2011/03/16 at 11:59 am

    I grew up as a picky eater and survived on Jif PB and mac & cheese. I ate my first tomato at 27 and shrimp at 30. All I can say is that it may take a while, but she’ll grow out of it. And if she doesn’t, she still survive.

    Also, I found this site yesterday while searching for easy veggie dishes to tempt my toddler with: http://www.weelicious.com.

    Good luck with your cooking adventures!

  • Petit Elefant

    2011/03/16 at 12:00 pm

    Mmm. You know what would make that even yummier? For you, not Leta? A little splash of balsamic vinegar.

  • Lola

    2011/03/16 at 1:43 pm

    I make almost the exact same recipe, but also put some “zesty” italian salad dressing on it.

  • teach0830

    2011/03/16 at 5:33 pm

    Given your love of design, have you seen http://www.theydrawandcook.com? The recipes are from all over the world, and the art is delightful. Check it out.

  • mysharona0722

    2011/03/16 at 6:57 pm

    I GUARANTEE my kid is way pickier than yours. He has run screaming from the room like a raving lunatic all because of one.piece.of.lettuce fell on his head. LETTUCE! He will sit at an entirely different table than the rest of the family if just one person is eating something that does not agree with his sense of smell. He has thrown up on himself at school, because the kid next to him at the lunch table DARED to eat ketchup on his hotdog. He will pull away in horror if I try to touch him after eating something that he doesnt like….even if my hands are clean. The mere THOUGHT that the food I ate will contaminate him, sends him over the edge. Yeah…can you say therapy?? We’ve had lots. He’s still picky,lol. WINNING!!!

  • BaileyG

    2011/03/16 at 8:23 pm

    I was such a picky eater (still am) that I didn’t eat pasta until college. That does not include Velveta Shells and Cheese. And yes, I get brand specific with my food. I used to make my mom cry at grocery stores out of frustration, and she celebrated when I moved out of her house by going on a mega food shopping trip for all the items she was finally allowed to buy. The good news, it gets better as we (picky eaters) get older and have to fend for ourselves.

  • lieztche

    2011/03/16 at 8:30 pm

    Ok, so I know Leta hates bananas, among many other things. But when you were talking about Leta eating the pasta today, you mentioned she will eat the pasta, but not garlic or thyme. So you’re telling me she eats TOMATOES?!??!?? I am a 37-year-old adult, and I won’t come within a foot of fresh tomatoes!

  • One Hungry Mutha

    2011/03/16 at 11:26 pm

    You inspired me to write more and now I do. Check out my cooking blog, from a woman who spent 18 years in New York City having never cooked a meal, keeping only mustard and milk in my fridge, (not sure what the mustard was for), and now I’m in L.A. with a kid, a hubby, and I’m cookin’ up a storm, and everything is SO easy to do. If I can make it, a monkey can.
    Hope it helps,

  • fuzzydot

    2011/03/17 at 12:17 am

    My younger brother lived entirely off of peanut butter and strawberry (only strawberry!) jam sandwiches on wheat and spaghetti noodles with butter and parmesan for the first 6 or 7 years of his life. He grew up to be a bright, normal adult who now eats just about anything. And interestingly, is the only member of the family who doesn’t have to watch his weight. Bastard.

  • Anoushka

    2011/03/17 at 7:45 am

    I come from a family of Really Great Cooks, but this gene seems to have bypassed me, along with the blue eyes and long lashes. (I’m better at Powerpoint than any of them, if that counts?) Totally scandalized to discover I used tinned corn (shock, horror!) in a recipe, my little brother — a chef — took it upon himself to start up a blog to encourage meal preparation with fresh foods and generally inspire me to new heights of kitchen exploits.

    I won’t say it’s idiot proof, but if you’ve ever wondered how to cook beets, the best way to prepare an omelette or had the “you’re on a desert island, trapped, and can only have 5 foods for the rest of your life — what do you choose?” conversation, http://www.stuffmysistercancook.blogspot.com might be a worth a look-in…

  • elwyntan

    2011/03/17 at 9:09 am

    I LOVE quick and simple recipes like this and can’t wait to try it.

    In terms of rolling sushi, it’s not as difficult as one might expect and my husband and I have found it makes for a great date night. We steam up a bowl of edamame to snack on and set out all our sushi ingredients in the kitchen. We’ll put together a roll, cut it and sample it right there then decide what we want to make for the next one.

  • beritron

    2011/03/17 at 9:27 am

    Oooh, another good add to this one: Pine nuts. While the pasta is cooking, toast them in a dry skillet until they *just* start to brown.

    Best of luck to you on the cooking! You’re off to a good start.

  • cwelpton

    2011/03/17 at 9:42 am

    This sounds similar to a dish that I love that is SUPER easy and oh so tasty. It does require a food processor or a blender. It is very good especially in the summer. And yes, it is from Giada, so I cannot take credit. Give it a chance, I promise you will like it!


Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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