March 1, 2015

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Whip


Mamas and Papas with infants, this short, sweet post is for you!

When our son was an infant, our pediatrician gave us this standard advice: avoid feeding your baby peanuts during his first year, to protect him from developing a peanut allergy. But a new study out this week found that babies who eat peanuts regularly throughout infancy have an 80% LOWER risk of developing peanut allergies.

Reading the news, I began reminiscing about the sweet, whipped snack that Darwin loved to eat as a young toddler. It comes together in a minute and offers a miniature hit of Vitamin A, protein, and healthy fats. The creamy sweet potato tames the stickiness of the peanut butter, so even young babies can gum and swallow it easily. And if it helps prevent peanut allergies, too? Awesome!

My daughter Nova still breastfeeds exclusively, but I think she'll love this colorful little meal when the time comes for solids.

In the meantime, my son polished off this serving after I finished taking pictures. "We should have this more often, Mama."

Deal.


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Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Whip
Makes one baby meal

1/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1-2 tsp. creamy, natural peanut butter (look for an ingredients list with only peanuts and salt.)

Heat the sweet potato gently, and stir in the peanut butter. For babies new to solids, you may thin the mixture with a small amount of water or breast milk. Serve immediately.

February 24, 2015

Chicken-Veggie Quinoa Bake (Gluten Free)


Most of the time, my family prefers simple, plant-based foods. We like beans and vegetables and whole grains, accented by a small something rich, like cheese or meat or homemade bone broth. We appreciate simplicity and humbleness from our meals. Most of the time. Like, 80% of the time.

The other 20% of the time, we want, well, something exactly like this. It's not humble. It's not stylish. It's not a culinary adventure. It's a big, creamy, chicken-y, heartland casserole. (Who am I kidding calling it a "bake." We all know it's a casserole, in all it's 1960's glory.) Give it to us.

And you should try it, too, because it's delicious. And because, despite its indulgent nature, its seemingly impossibly coziness, this creamy casserole dishes out a happy array of whole foods you want in your family's belly: cruciferous veggies (two of 'em!), carrots, celery, onions, full-fat dairy (why?), and 100% whole grains.

This quinoa bake (please let me try to be cool) is so very rich, I always serve it with some crunchy, raw, salad-type thing on the side. My son can't get enough balsamic vinegar, so a little bowl of cucumbers and bell peppers in vinaigrette is just the thing.

Then it's time to dig in...

Enjoy!

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Chicken-Veggie Quinoa Bake
Serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 + 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 a large sweet onion
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped small
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (we shred fresh from a block)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup stock or water
1 cup whole wheat or gluten-free bread crumbs (We make our own from oven-dried Ezekial bread--do try!)
roughly-chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large, deep-sided pan over medium heat, saute celery, onion, and carrots in a swirl of EVOO until they begin to soften, about 7-10 minutes.

Add the garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pan, and cook until the crucifers soften, another five minutes or so.

Stir in the quinoa, chicken, dried herbs, and salt, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream, and stock or water. Whisk, then pour the mixture over the quinoa, stirring well to combine everything.

Spoon the casserole into a baking dish (For one big casserole, try a 9 x 13 dish. I usually make several "personal" casseroles.)

Sprinkle breadcrumbs across the top and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are toasted.

Scatter with parsley and serve immediately.

February 16, 2015

Fruit-Sweetened Granola Gorp


“Gorp for dinner, gorp for lunch, gorp for breakfast, gorp for brunch. Gorp for every single meal, why can’t we have some GROP!” Darwin laughs each time we sing him this nonsensical riff on Misfits lyrics. He accuses us of singing it wrong at the end: “No, it’s GORP!”

Truthfully, I don’t think he’d complain if we served him this toasty, whole grain, energy-dense snack at every meal.

As the holidays approached, I went on a hunt for a truly healthy, delicious granola that I could gift in mason jars to friends and family. I tried a batch of Mark Bittman’s “Good Morning Gorp,” but it didn’t excite me. I still love you, Mark. But I wanted more flavor and richness from my gorp. I added virgin coconut oil, extra nuts and seeds, more flaked coconut, vanilla, and a pinch of cinnamon. Then I threw the whole mess into the oven to toast and set those flavors, and bingo: a brilliantly filling, protein-rich, whole-grain, fruit-sweetened cereal that tastes wonderful on top of whole plain yogurt or in a bowl all by itself.

This recipe has thrived beyond its origins as a holiday gift. The gorp jar is a permanent fixture in our own fridge now, replacing store-bought muesli. And since gorp-making is all about scooping and dumping and stirring and ingredient-munching, it’s great fun to include little ones in replenishing the family's supply.

Enjoy.


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Fruit-Sweetened Granola Gorp
Fills 1 quart jar

1.5 cups dry rolled oats
1 cup nuts (raw or dry-roasted peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
⅓ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, chopped dates, chopped apricots, etc.)
¼ cup virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch cinnamon
sprinkle of sea salt

Preheat oven to 300.

In a large mixing bowl, toss oats, nuts, seeds, and coconut.

In a separate, small bowl, stir together oil and vanilla.

Drizzle oil and vanilla mixture over oat mixture and toss to combine.

Sprinkle the oat mixture with cinnamon, and spread thinly on a cookie sheet. (I use an aluminum cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat.)

Bake for 5 minutes.

Transfer oats back to the mixing bowl and stir in dried fruit. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Cool and eat; refrigerate the leftovers.

August 12, 2014

Stovetop Baked Beans


Does time move quickly, or slowly? How many years ago did I bike down the boardwalk of San Diego's Pacific Beach, past miles of sunbathers and crystal waves, to Trader Joe's on Garnet Avenue, to buy my favorite baked beans?

How many months ago did I slump in my wintry Long Island kitchen, plagued with morning sickness and craving those tender, syrupy beans I had only ever eaten from a can?

Darwin, former dollop, former question mark, seems to catapults toward his fourth birthday. Our second baby rolls in my belly, nine weeks from her due date. Time slides back and forth like a Matchbox car on the kitchen floor.

I'm starting to plan ahead some freezer meals, so we can try to eat together and well in the dazed, early weeks after the baby arrives.

Space is limited, but these baked beans have earned their spot in the freezer. I modified the recipe (heavily) from this one, shortening the cooking time and halving the amount of molasses to no ill effect.

The beans are deliciously smooth and flavorful. Navy beans simmered from scratch have the best mouthfeel, if I can borrow some wine-speak. Plus, they offer lots of fiber, protein, and a double hit of iron in combination with the molasses.

Here are a few reasons to make baked beans from scratch, rather than opening a can:
You can drastically reduce the amount of added sweeteners.
You can use iron-rich molasses instead of empty-calorie sugars like HFCS or brown sugar.
You can minimize your exposure to toxic can-liners like BPA.
You can make a big, hearty batch for big broods or freezing.

The bacon is totally optional, but a little fat rounds out the meal. Shredded cheddar melted on toast is another good accompaniment.


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Stovetop Baked Beans
Serves 6

1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 sweet or yellow onion, chopped small
1 cup tomato sauce (we like Muir Glen)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. butter
2 bay leaves
cooked bacon, for garnish (optional)

Cook navy beans until tender, along with the bay leaves. We do this in a pressure cooker, but you may also simmer them in a heavy pot with water for about an hour. Drain the beans, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

In a large, heavy pot, sauté the onion in the butter on medium-low heat until starting to brown and caramelize, 15-20 minutes.

Add the drained beans, tomato sauce, dry mustard, salt, and molasses, and stir to combine.

Simmer beans for ten minutes to blend flavors. If the beans seem dry or begin to stick, add the reserved cooking liquid.

Serve as is, or top with bacon or shredded cheddar cheese.

August 7, 2014

Whole Fruit Frozen Yogurt Bites


If you shop in a supermarket, you know there's an utterly dizzying selection of flavored yogurts out there. You've seen the tubes and pouches, the fruit-on-the-bottoms, and the rainbow cups topped with helmets of chocolate and sugary granola. These products are heavily-marketed (Probiotics! Fruit! Low Fat!) and designed to make us feel like good eaters and good parents, if only we buy them. They are rosy, cozy, Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light yogurts. Are you suspicious yet? You should be.

You have to stoop to pick up the good stuff, because it's usually on the bottom shelf, only the lid visible. Whole, and plain. Tart, rich, and creamy with the fat that belongs in it. A milk-white, empty canvas. Because yogurt shines when YOU doll it up a little, in your own kitchen, with simple, fresh ingredients.


On a hot day, these treats hit all the right notes: frosty, fun, and colorful, fruity and sweet-tart. They start to lose their shape out of the freezer fairly quickly, so I like to grab a few at a time and put them into a little dish for Darwin. The worst-case scenario is your shapes melt, and you have to eat a thick swirl of real-food soft serve. Torture!


If you have any leftover mixture, pour it into a glass and stick a straw in it. Do.

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Whole Fruit Frozen Yogurt Bites

1 ripe banana (frozen is OK)
1 cup whole plain yogurt
1/2 cup frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, cherries, mango, etc)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2Tbls honey, optional for babies over one year

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into candy molds or make dollops on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze and enjoy.

Here is a link to the molds that made the yogurt bites pictured. A word of caution: it is a very, very tiny mold, so you don't get much yogurt in these shapes without making several batches, or owning several molds.

July 29, 2014

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes


With all the cell division happening in this house (pregnant mama + busy toddler) our meals have tended lately toward decadence. Meats, whole dairy, eggs, nuts, and butter grace our table daily. But even in this season of calorie-dense foods, veggies never fall by the wayside.

Sweet potatoes, those vibrant, earthy tubers, Darwin's first food, hold a special place in my heart. I love their humbleness, natural sweetness, and amazing nutrition. Swapping in a sweet potato makes magic out of a classic loaded baked potato, yeilding a better balance of flavors and a bigger punch of fiber and vitamins than the original version. So much for keeping the oven off in July.

Try any combination of toppings, and let your kids assemble. We love melted sharp cheddar, chopped scallions, fresh parsley, torn strips of bacon, and a good dollop of sour cream. Salsa and minced red onions are also delicious.


For the bacon, we buy the nitrate-free kind (usually from Applegate Farms), though I've read conflicting reports about sodium nitrate vs. celery powder, and which is safer. Without a clear consensus, as Hoots the Owl might say, bacon is a sometime food.

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Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

2-4 sweet potatoes
4oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated from the block
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
8oz bacon, cooked and coarsely crumbled
sour cream

Stab sweet potatoes with a fork and bake for 1 hour in a 400 degree oven, turning once.

When the potatoes are very tender, place each one on a plate and slice lengthwise. I sometimes pinch or slice off the ends, which can be slightly fibrous.

Sprinkle with cheese first to melt, then remaining toppings as you like. Serve!


July 17, 2014

Parmesan Broccoli Minute-Hash

Broccoli is our it-vegetable. We eat it with breakfast every morning, steamed until bright green and served with a little grass-fed butter and sea salt. I gobble up a big heap of it. Darwin munches off the florets and ambitiously "Brachiosaurus-chomps" the stems. We have oatmeal or eggs or peanut butter on sprouted grain toast, but the broccoli is our constant: a daily succession of forests chopped down and served for our breakfasting pleasure.

 A breakfast rich in folate, vitamin K, and sulfur compounds
Recently, as he sometimes does, Darwin woke for the day painfully early. I found myself cooking breakfast to the tentative music of the first songbirds, but no one wanted it except pregnant-and-always-hungry-me. Hours later, my attempts to re-warm the broccoli for the rest of the family yielded dull and disappointing results.

So, an experiment. I threw the extra-tender (read: a little overcooked) broccoli into a bowl and mash-chopped it up with a fork. I melted a luscious square of butter on top, then stirred in some Parmesan cheese (the kind in the jar, which my family affectionately calls "shake cheese"). Viola! Parmesan Broccoli Minute-Hash was born!

Darwin instantly fell for the rich, salty, easily scoopable hash. He ate a truly gratifying amount of broccoli, and now often asks for his morning broccoli prepared this way. May yours ask for broccoli, too!
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Parmesan Broccoli Minute-Hash
Serves as many as you like

Fresh broccoli, chopped into evenly-sized florets
Unsalted butter
Parmesan cheese

In a covered, medium pot outfitted with a steam basket and filled with an inch of water, steam the broccoli florets until quite tender and beginning to lose their crisp brightness.

Transfer florets to a mixing bowl, add butter to taste, and mash, coarsely or finely, with a fork.

Add a generous shake of Parmesan cheese, stir thoroughly, and serve.