May 17, 2015

4-2-4 Weekday Pancakes


Darwin isn't one of those kids you see in commercials who bounds into his parents' bedroom at dawn, tousled and exuberant to the dismay of his overtired parents. Usually, I wake him, moving through his dim and jungle-y room in the early morning to lay a hand gently on his back. He doesn't budge at first; then, in a tiny and blanket-muffled voice, he tells me he's a butterfly inside a chrysalis, not ready to emerge. Or he'll ask me to "push the button," which means he's a robot, and needs a human to boot him up. Once in a while, he'll smile, eyes still closed, and ask for Mama-snuggles: truly sweet, and late-for-school-making.

With all the hatching and snuggling and robotic high jinks of preschool mornings, the breakfast window is pretty narrow. Sometimes, it's lets-put-our-shoes-on-under-the-table narrow. If breakfast is going to be special on these mornings, it has to be super speedy. These 4-2-4 pancakes--that's 4 eggs, 2 bananas, and 4 Tbls. flour-- are both.

4-2-4 pancakes are where breakfast and magic tricks intersect; they're our riff on grain-free, ultra-simple pancakes like these and these. Thrilling as it is to follow the flour-less recipes (guys, it works!) we encountered two major issues with them. Firstly, they burn easily. (Blame the sugary bananas, laid nearly bare in a hot skillet.) Secondly, they're extremely fragile. Not to brag or anything, but I'm a pretty accomplished pancake flipper, and I've still mangled a few.

Adding just a touch of stone-ground whole wheat flour solves both problems. The pancakes cook beautifully, turning our fluffy, a bit crisp on the outside, and almost custardy in the middle. The whole fruit sugars in the batter supply plenty of sweetness; we don't add any syrup at the table. And 4-2-4s provide a lot more protein than traditional pancakes. Best of all, they're ridiculously easy. Truly achievable pancakes. We can all use that on a Tuesday morning.


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4-2-4 Weekday Pancakes
Makes 10-12 pancakes

4 eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
4 Tbls. whole wheat flour (1/4 cup)
dash cinnamon

butter, for frying
fresh fruit for serving

Fork-whisk eggs, bananas, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl.

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When butter begins to foam, ladle batter by scant quarter cups into the hot skillet.

Cook a minute or two, until bubbles begin to form on the pancakes. Flip, and cook a minute more, until golden and firm.

Transfer to plates and top with butter and fresh fruit. Serve immediately.

May 10, 2015

Insane Whole Grain Lo Mein


During last year's round of Sibling Secret Santa, Scott and I connived to discover who the entire family was buying for. Our kitchen became the situation room, where we penned a list of names, some crossed-out, others connected with arrows. We figured out who everyone was assigned, and taunted them all, cryptically, for several weeks. Then Christmas arrived, and it turned out we had been completely wrong.

In my hubris leading up to Christmas, I'd planted the seed of wanting this pan in the mind of my sister-in-law. The seed had drifted here and there and finally landed like a little dandelion tuft with my brother-in-law in California, who'd actually been given my name. And he bought it for me, from afar, and had it shipped, because he is a very sweet person. Thank you, and sorry, to all parties involved.

The thing is a behemoth of a pan, deep like something's stomped footprint, its arced handle extra-long. Its official home is on top of the refrigerator, and when I want to get it down, I have to recruit my baby-hefting upper arms.

I can melt down an entire leafy bunch of greens in this pan, simmer a double-batch of Giada's Bolognese with grass-fed beef, and saute cups upon cups of veggies en route to a casserole dish. I can sizzle cutlets and make fried rice, and if I happen to catch sight of a greasy takeout carton of lo mein, and fall under the irresistible spell of needing to make lo mein at home, well, I can do that with my mondo pan.

With more vegetables.

And whole wheat noodles.

And splashy love.

We have two kids now and often feel kind of butt-kicked by dinner time (the idea of courses becomes unbearable), so the pile-everything-into-one pan approach has been working well. Our lo mein, loosely inspired by this one from Damn Delicious, boasts a lot of goodness: an insanely colorful variety of vegetables in a slightly sweet, gingery sauce; whole wheat noodles; and plant-based protein.

We all adore it, sitting across from one another with noodles cascading from our mouths (CUT the pasta with your teeth, Darwin!) And I figure if word-of-mouth got me this great pan, it's only fair that I pass along news of the delicious things that come out of it.

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Insane Whole Grain Lo Mein
Serves 4

8 oz 100% whole wheat spaghetti
1 pound firm tofu
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup raw snow peas
2 celery stalks, sliced
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 big handful fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbls. EVOO, or a big swirl

Sauce:
1/4  cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbls. + 1 tsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 green onions, finely sliced, plus more for garnish

Drain tofu, cut it into cubes, and blot the cubes dry with a flour sack towel or paper towel. Set aside.

Boil water, and set pasta to cook according to instructions.

Meanwhile, whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a deep-sided 5-quart pan or wok pan over medium-high heat, fry mushrooms together with carrots, celery, and bell pepper for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add garlic, tofu, snow peas, and spinach, and fry for 2-3 more minutes, until spinach has just wilted, and peas are bright green and crisp.

Drain cooked pasta, and add it to the pan, pouring the sauce over the top of the pasta and vegetables. Use tongs to toss the lo mein until the sauce has completely incorporated, with none pooling in the bottom of the pan.

Serve and garnish with extra chopped green onions, and Sriracha, if you like.

May 3, 2015

Kid Curry with Chicken and Red Lentils


"I mean, Indian food IS kid food," I say, leaning into the sink after dinner, scrubbing a rind of curry from my favorite pot.

Scott nods. "1.2 billion Indians can't be wrong." We've had this conversation before, the one about how it's normal and important and totally not torture to serve kids diverse and boldly-flavored foods. We're the preacher and the choir. 

Darwin appears destined from the womb to love macaroni and cheese. But that doesn't mean he, like all kids, can't surprise us with preferences for more complex flavors. At lunch today, I mistakenly failed to offer him some of my latest batch of Nourished Kitchen's Hot Pink Jalapeno Garlic Kraut. He finally asked for some, and ate two servings! Kid showed me. Case two: Darwin's baby sister, who thinks sweet potato is some variety of Buttered Death, will tackle a spoon loaded up with this curry.

There is a definite down-the-rabbit-hole quality to feeding kids, and that's not a bad thing; it means it's worth taking risks. It means you're allowed, no, practically obligated to occasionally throw open the doors of the spice cabinet, and declare it Curry Night.

Next time you do, try this rich and beautifully-colored stew. Spiced but not spicy, it warms little bellies with tender chicken and vegetables, two hearty legumes, and more protein than you can shake a spoon at. Give it a go, even if someone in your house is likely to ask, "what's curry?" (Answer: family food from across the world!) Ladle it over brown rice with a dollop of plain yogurt and see who bites.


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Kid Curry with Chicken and Red Lentils
Serves 4-6

1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed and drained
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
1 small sweet onion
2 carrots, peeled and chopped small
1 cup cauliflower, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated ginger
3 Tbls. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp. ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
whole plain yogurt, for garnish
cooked brown rice for serving (optional)

In a heavy, 5-quart pot over medium heat, fry onions, carrots, and cauliflower in olive oil until softening and translucent, about ten minutes.

Add garlic, ginger, and dry spices, and fry one minute longer.

Add red lentils, chicken, chickpeas, tomato paste, and salt, plus 3.5 cups water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are completely softened and the stew has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Remove curry from the heat, and stir in fresh lemon juice.

Ladle over brown rice (if using) and top each serving with a dollop of yogurt.

April 26, 2015

"No-Sticky" Nut Butter Apple Snack


In March, Scott interviewed for a job in Utah. The trees there were changing ahead of ours, already leafing out while we were still looking up at skeletons. Now, in late April, Long Island's trees are catching up, and the breeze finally feels good. Darwin's out playing in the yard while Scott leans into our car, vacuuming under the seats.

I've ducked into the kitchen to make peanut butter apples dredged in unsweetened coconut flakes. This is my PB-apple hack: my way of avoiding the fact that Darwin will (a) get sticky if I give him straight peanut butter, and (b) wipe his hands on anything in the world before he touches an actual napkin. Not only are these PB-apples tidily coated in dry toppings, they also look and taste extra special, for very little real effort.

I smear and dredge, smear and dredge, reaching around the baby kicking in her wrap. Then the screen door opens, Scott's face pops into the kitchen, and he tells me that he got the job.

We're. Moving. To Utah!

I gasp and run to him and celebrate a little in the doorway, my head awash with stock details and visuals: snow-capped mountains, hot summers, hiking trails, a promising preschool program for Darwin, plus a lot of mystery and adventure.

Come August, Kid Can Eat will be eating stuff in Utah... so much to digest! (Yuk yuk.)

When I eventually get back to Darwin's half-prepared snack, the peanut butter knife is lying haphazardly on the counter, and I find a startled apple slice in the bottom of the jar. It's coated all over in peanut butter, so sticky it's practically irretrievable. I'll eat that one.


When I make this snack for Darwin, I coat most of the apples with unsweetened coconut, because it's so yummy, and because it's the most foolproof "no-sticky" coating. Also pictured and delicious are apples coated in mini dark chocolate chips, and our Fruit-Sweetened Granola Gorp.

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"No-Sticky" Nut Butter Apple Snack
Serves: 1 peckish kid

1 apple, cut into pieces
2 Tbls natural nut butter, any type
2 Tbls unsweetened shredded coconut, gorp, mini dark chocolate chips, etc.

Pour toppings into small dishes.

Smear nut butter on half of each apple slice, then dip the apple into the topping bowls until well-coated. That's it!

April 19, 2015

Confetti Fried (Brown) Rice


Last week, I wrote about my daughter's first foray into solid food. Today, my son asked, "What was your first food?"

I had no idea. My parents probably don't even know, though they were and are prolific home cooks. Everybody did jars for babies back then.

But his question got me thinking about other kinds of "first foods," like the first food I ate after coming home from the hospital with my second newborn: this rice.

It was early October, and I'd spent the last two days in a hospital room, staring at our beautiful new human while eating bagels and steam-table vegetables and just the worst lentil soup ever. (Please!)

Finally we were home and happy, and Nova slept agreeably while I raided the refrigerator for homemade, leftover fried rice. It was delicious even cold, colorful and subtle with its touch of soy sauce and sesame oil, its sweet onions and friendly corn and peas. I'd made it a day or so before giving birth, and now felt like I was jabbing a fork into an artifact from another world.

While I always like to pair something main-dishy with a vegetable side, this is one of those recipes that's chock full of enough nutritious, varied bits (vegetables, eggs, whole grains) that you can get away with serving it as a "one pot meal" in a pinch. I certainly got away with it that day, eating my leftovers standing inside an archipelago of yet-to-be-unpacked hospital bags. The ultimate pinch.

It's a good memory and I wouldn't change it; still, when you make this rice, try it warm, and at the table.


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Confetti Fried (Brown) Rice
Serves 4

1 cup (uncooked) brown rice
1 small sweet onion, chopped small
2-3 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 eggs
2 Tbls. butter
1 Tbls. tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbls. chopped fresh cilantro

Rinse, drain, and cook rice, then cool it completely, preferably overnight.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter and fry the onion and shredded carrot together until both are soft and sweet, about ten minutes.

Add the cooked and cooled rice, peas, corn, tamari, and sesame oil. Toss and fry the rice briefly until flavors combine.

In a separate, nonstick skillet, make a plain omelet from the eggs. Slide the omelet onto a plate and cut it into small rectangles.

Toss the egg with the rice, taste, and add more tamari to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve warm.

April 12, 2015

Sweet Potato Stars with Cinnamon Butter


It's a handkerchief-dabbing kind of week for me. My daughter, Nova, turned six months old on Easter, and she's about to try solid food.

Back in September of 2011, I fastidiously planned Darwin's first meal. He was to receive a schmear of baked organic sweet potato on a plate that he could experiment with/potentially consume at the same time that I ate baked sweet potato off my own plate (along with roasted chicken and a spinach salad) while his Dad video-taped the event.

I remember that meal well; anyway, I can watch the footage whenever I want. On camera, baby Darwin gums the plate, smashes the orange dollop with his hands, and ultimately drools on about a quarter teaspoon of his food. The end.

It's not a lot to see, and in fact, he didn't really take to solid food for another three months. But that first feeding is a big old emotional deal, isn't it? A nibble of food now means one less sip of breast milk later. It marks a separation, the moment the shared biology of two bodies begins, just barely, to disengage. A friend described the feeling well, reflecting on her son's first meal: "I took a picture of him, first," she said: a record. "I channeled every molecule of this person through my body." 

How true. Here is my daughter, in her Easter dress, on her half-year birthday. I channeled every molecule of this person through my body:


Despite the gravity of the first feeding, or maybe because of it, I made an effort to approach Nova's first meal casually. I thought I'd offer sweet potato first, but hey, maybe it would be avocado. Maybe I'd serve her in her high chair, or maybe I'd let her lick a little mash from my finger. Maybe it would be this week or maybe it would be next. I waited for the Mood, and today, the Mood knocked.

Scott came home from the city in the evening.

"I gave Nova some [soft-steamed] carrot sticks today," I said.

"Did you videotape it?"

"No."

"How did she do?"

"She put one in her mouth, and licked it, and made a face."


"It sounds like it went well, then."

And it did go well, in that now-familiar, anticlimactic way. I'll remember Nova's squirming weight in my lap, and the bright orange shape poking between her small fingers, shiny with baby drool. As the years roll on, I'll allow myself some occasional, quiet sentiment about it. But for now, it's time we got used to washing food from bibs and fingers and the floor under a baby's chair, again.

Next up? Sweet potatoes. Nova, my bright star, and all you babies beginning your journeys as eaters, these sweet potatoes are for you. May you love and be nourished by food for a hundred years!


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Sweet Potato Stars with Cinnamon Butter
Makes ~ 15 stars
Materials: one small (1.5-inch) tin-plated star cookie cutter (I use the smallest of this set.)

1 sweet potato
1 pat unsalted butter
dash cinnamon

Peel the sweet potato, and slice it into rounds 1/4 inch thick or slightly less.

Use the cookie cutter to punch star shapes out of the middle of each round.* Use a small bamboo cutting board to help safely press the cutter down.

Fill a pot with an inch of water and a steam basket; add the stars and steam, covered, for 5-10 minutes, or until the stars are tender.

Remove from heat and toss with butter and a dash of cinnamon. Serve.

*PLEASE save the outer edges! Steam them and eat them yourself, or serve them to the kids at another meal.

April 6, 2015

Spring Vegetable Mini-Quiches


It's springtime! -Ish. It's 55 degrees. We've waited long enough. We go out to the yard, Darwin and me and Nova wrapped to my chest in her jammies and soft hat.

We head for the backyard compost heap, garden tools in hand. The heap rises up from the ground like I remember it from the fall, a slurry of onion skins, banana peels, egg shells, broccoli stalks, collapsed pumpkins, pineapple tops, kale stems, celery butts, sweet potato peels, and many unidentifiable bits and scraps, plus little oval produce stickers swirling in the middle like a minor trash gyre.

Go ahead and hack at it, I tell Darwin, who takes his kid-sized purple hoe to the pile. I angle my shovel into the edge, and together we uncover the black, fertile interior of the pile: the worm's work.

More than robins or crocuses or disappearing snow, it's this big heap of scraps that excites me for spring. Soon we'll smooth this good compost into the garden beds, sprinkle rows of tiny seeds into the ground, and... well, wait, some more. We'll wait for a long time. But the waiting after planting is different, delicious.

In the meantime, we leave our mud-crusted boots on the welcome mat, and do delicious indoors, conjuring spring with miniature quiches made from of-the-moment asparagus, sweet peas, and tender carrots in cups of rich egg and cheese.

Eat them warm or cool, in your kitchen, at school, or at work, for breakfast or dinner. Enjoy making them, and enjoy eating them; you know what to do with the scraps.


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Spring Vegetable Mini-Quiches
Makes 12 mini-quiches

4 eggs
1/4 large sweet onion, chopped small
1 med-large carrot, peeled and chopped small
10 medium asparagus spears, chopped small
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated whole milk Mozzarella
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
salt* and black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325, and line a muffin tin with silicon liners. (Aluminum liners work, but mine always come away from the liners flawlessly when I use silicon.)

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook onions and carrots in a swirl of EVOO until the vegetables are translucent and softening, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs with Mozzarella, Parmesan, and cottage cheeses. Add pepper and salt, if using.

Add asparagus to the vegetables on the stove, and saute a few minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the frozen peas, letting the peas cool off the mixture slightly.

Add the vegetables to the egg bowl, and stir to combine.

Spoon the egg/veggie mixture into the lined muffin tin, and bake until centers are completely set and tops are just barely toasting, 20-25 minutes.

Cool ten minutes, then serve.

*I don't add salt, because the Parmesan cheese is salty. Use your own judgement.