July 4, 2015

Kid Curry: Aloo Matar

 In the supermarket, I heft a five-pound bag of organic Yukon Gold potatoes.

"Should we buy these?" I ask.

"I don't know. Yeah. What do you want to make with them?"

We're not a big potato family. Buying a whole sack of them feels like, you know, an investment.

"I want to make that pea and potato curry," I say.

"Sure, do it. I'll make hash browns."

Into the cart they go. I start dreaming of that comforting, Indian-spiced, gravy-rich aloo matar I've had--Where? At the Indian restaurant on Providence's East Side? At the Gainesville, Florida farmer's market?--I can't remember.

At home, I research and jot down notes. It quickly becomes clear that aloo matar is a truly exciting dish to make at home (puree a whole bunch of fresh cilantro?! OKAY!), but also that Yukon Gold potatoes are totally the wrong kind of potatoes. You want Russets, the classic baking potato, with their fluffy, earthy, spice-wicking texture.

So, I go back to the store and buy Russet potatoes. And with them, I make this: a pea and potato curry that's hearty and gently spiced, with familiar ingredients kids tend to like in a gravy that's complex with herbs and aromatics. Grownups: add some Sriracha or hot pepper flakes, and you've got the aloo matar of your dreams. And everyone is happy.

Except that I still have a huge bag of Yukon Gold potatoes. I think I've used one so far, in a soup.

Help me.

Kid Curry: Aloo Matar
Serves 6

3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 small sweet onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup frozen peas
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, stems mostly removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
plain yogurt and Sriracha sauce for serving (optional)

Boil potatoes in a large pot of water 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and roughly mash them, leaving some chunks. Set aside.

Meanwhile, puree diced tomatoes in a food processor. Set aside.

Give the food processor a quick rinse, then puree the onions, cilantro, and garlic.

In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, add the onion/cilantro puree, along with the turmeric, paprika, and coriander. Fry 8-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, peas, salt, and 1.5 cups water. Simmer 10 more minutes to deepen flavors.

Remove from heat and add garam masala and lemon juice. Serve!

June 28, 2015

Spinach + Oat Breakfast Cookies

Learning to like vegetables is one of the jobs of childhood, like learning to read, or getting dirty fingernails in summer. It's a big project, and the work belongs to the kids; I tell myself this on days when Darwin ignores the veggies on his plate.

While I understand the temptation to "sneak" veggies into things like pizza sauce or mac-and-cheese, deceiving kids about what's in their food shelters them from the pleasant surprise of liking something new or challenging. We should always be frank about what's in our recipes.

That's why I love spinach. Spinach, with its verdant hue, shouts out: "I'm here!" It greens-up pancakes, smoothies, pastas, and quiches, but the flavor is ever-mild. And in baking, spinach is the new zucchini, a moist-making boon.

There's a modest portion of the leafy green in these delicious breakfast cookies, just enough to liven up their color and texture, and inspire confidence in your veggie-eaters-in-training. Like all our everyday treats, these cookies are sweetened entirely with fruit.

"They're green," Darwin says. "What makes them green?"

"There's spinach inside."

"They taste just like regular cookies."



Spinach + Oat Breakfast Cookies
Makes 12 cookies

1.75 cups rolled oats
1 egg, whisked
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 packed cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line a light aluminum baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, egg, oil, and vanilla.

Use a food processor to finely process the spinach leaves. Add them to the mixing bowl.

Stir in oats and raisins.

Use a spoon to portion out cookie-shaped dollops onto the baking sheet. You'll have enough batter to make 12-13 cookies.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are toasty and firm. Cool slightly, and they'll firm up even more. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

June 21, 2015

Whole Wheat Oven-Fried Drumsticks

When you're four, it can be hard to slow down to eat. Food has to compete with other important life experiences, like curly slides, and sometimes curly slides win. But take it from Darwin: if you're not careful, your baby sister in her cottony sunhat might devour your picnic drumstick.

One great thing about cooking for two children, instead of one, is that somebody usually eats whatever I make. They'll team up on me someday, and organize a dinner coup (Stroganoff?! MOM!), but for now, I enjoy this two-child effect: one scampers (or crawls) off to play, and the other stays to eat.

And oh, these Whole Wheat Oven-Fried Drumsticks are worth staying for. They're crispy and rich and just a little carb-y, in the satisfying way of lightly breaded things.

Most oven-fried chicken recipes require dredging in multiple bowls (egg + flour, buttermilk + breadcrumbs, etc.) but I find that tedious and unnecessary. This recipe only requires one bowl filled with nutritious whole wheat flour and a little cheese, and the results are super special.

The drumsticks cook long and hot; after the second basting, you're going to worry that you're overcooking them, but soldier on. They're protected under their crusts and can handle a lot of heat.

Crispy and mouthwatering as they are right out of the oven, the cold leftovers are a treat, too. Pack the drumsticks with some raw veggies and fruits, throw down a picnic blanket, and watch your kids get hungry while they search for four-leaf clovers. They'll join you eventually.


Whole Wheat Oven-Fried Drumsticks
Makes 10-ish drumsticks

10 chicken drumsticks, give or take
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
2 Tbls. Parmesan cheese (the kind in the shaker is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
few grinds black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbls. fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, cheese, salt, and pepper.

Arrange the drumsticks in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and drizzle them generously with olive oil.

Pick up each oiled drumstick, dredge it in the flour mixture, and return it to the baking dish, skin-side up.

Bake 40 minutes, then remove the dish and spoon the drippings over the top of each drumstick.

Bake another 30-45 minutes, removing the dish to baste the drumsticks every 15 minutes.

Remove the drumsticks from the oven, sprinkle them with parsley, and let rest a few minutes before serving.

June 17, 2015

The Kid Can Eat Family Salad

I've been reading Ellyn Satter's Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family, and I paused at this line: "Many families have the same salad over and over again and don't seem to get tired of it."

I realized with an ambivalent jolt that we have been eating the same salad the entire spring. We have, for better or worse, a Family Salad. It's part Alice Waters (just-picked from the garden, hand-mixed lettuces), and part Pacific Beach Cafe (salty chunks of feta and whisked balsamic dressing). It's fairly ordinary, but it's ours, appearing in the middle of our table almost nightly, blithely poking up over the top of a simple metal mixing bowl.

Darwin eats his serving entirely with his hands, beginning with the cheese. He next moves on to the cucumber rounds, and lastly to the lettuce. If he encounters a red onion, he announces irritably, "Mama, I don't like onions, and you put onions in my salad."

I have some critiques of Satter's work, but we agree on how to respond to a hesitant young eater: "You don't have to eat them."

Likewise, you, reader, don't have to try our family salad. But consider yourself invited.

Quality is everything. Choose the freshest lettuces, an aged and syrupy vinegar, and full-fat cheese.


The Kid Can Eat Family Salad
scale to your family

for the salad:
red leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and roughly chopped
romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and roughly chopped
red onions sliced into rings
English cucumber slices
whole milk feta cheese, crumbled loosely
freshly ground black pepper

for the vinaigrette:
extra virgin olive oil
good quality aged balsamic vinegar
sprinkle sea salt

Toss all salad ingredients except for feta and black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle feta and pepper on top of the vegetables.

Pour three parts oil and one or two parts vinegar into a jar, add a sprinkle of sea salt, and whisk. Taste, and adjust ratios as you like.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving.

June 14, 2015

Summer Fruit Kebabs

The first time I skewered fresh summer fruits, we were having a moving sale in Florida. I filled a stainless steel mixing bowl with long bamboo sticks of watermelon and strawberries, and set it on the front porch, next to our plastic chairs and cash box.

I learned that strangers might react with skepticism when offered something to eat for free, but that fruit, and maybe the entire category of skewered foods, has an allure that softens people. (One woman politely declined a kebab, then crept back a little sheepishly a minute later to ask for one.)

By 10 a.m., our yard teemed with customers poring over retired dishware and outgrown toddler clothes, and most everyone wielded a colorful, juicy kebab. We talked with neighbors we didn't know we had: the teacher who bought our used children's books to award as prizes, and the elderly man who knew the BEST way to hard-boil an egg (in a pressure cooker, apparently).

Two years later, we're planning another moving sale here in New York, and I've got fruit kebabs on my mind again: those hydrating, vitamin- and antioxidant-rich treats.

A little cup of whipped cream or honey-yogurt turns these kebabs into a casual dessert, but ripe summer fruits need nothing to embellish their flavor. Instead, when you slip them onto a stick, you embellish their shape. You make jeweled wands out of your food. Because kids are suckers for it, and, admit it, so are you.


Summer Fruit Kebabs

Watermelon, berries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, or other fresh fruits in season.
long bamboo skewers

Cut fruit into similarly-sized chunks, and slide it onto the skewers. Alternate fruits and leave some room for fingers to grip on each end. Serve!

June 7, 2015

Crispy Baked Chickpea Nuggets

Nova--eight months old, crawling, and curious--has recently experienced a whole array of new gustatory adventures. They include, in no particular order, tastings of grass clippings, shoe strings, cardboard, maple tree seeds, rug fuzz, chair legs, table legs, sofa legs, mud, and the cord to my laptop.

Fortunately, she also likes to eat actual food. Lately in fact, she demands it, which means the days of casually offering solids are over, and I'm now in charge of cooking for two small humans, one of whom has no teeth. I would be lost without recipes well-suited to a broad range of chewing abilities, like these cute and inviting Crispy Baked Chickpea Nuggets.

They feel and taste exactly how you want them to: toasty and golden on the outside, and moist and savory (without being overly creamy or beany) on the inside, laced with sharp cheddar cheese and pureed onions.

Each nugget contains about four grams of protein, so three of them supply the protein equivalent of a couple of eggs. Plus you get all the other good stuff that comes from legumes, like fiber, iron, B-vitamins, and meatless karma. We like them dipped into a little tin of organic ketchup, which Darwin will tell you is only for grownups and big kids.

For Nova, I nibble off the crispy outer layer of a nugget and let her mash up the soft interior with her gums. She opens her mouth and pokes her miniature tongue toward the food and seems to enjoy it at least as thoroughly as she enjoys her own feet.

How's that to recommend a recipe?


Crispy Baked Chickpea Nuggets
Makes about 22 nuggets

3 cups cooked chickpeas*
1.5 cups freshly-grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup whole grain breadcrumbs**
1 egg
half a medium sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400.

Line an aluminum (light-colored) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and puree until well-combined. Expect the consistency of hummus.

Use a large spoon to apply nugget-sized dollops onto the baking sheet. Space them closely, and don't worry about shaping them, particularly.

Bake 15 minutes, then flip the nuggets. The nuggets should have a golden brown crust on the undersides. Use the back of your spatula to smash them slightly.

Bake 15 minutes more, until the nuggets are firm and toasty on both sides. Cool five minutes, then serve.

*We cook our own chickpeas from scratch. If you're using canned chickpeas, try two cans, drained.
**We make our own breadcrumbs from the collected frozen heels of 100% whole sprouted grain bread.

May 31, 2015

A Quick Guide to Minute-Veggies

Let's do something a little different this week. I'm going to let you in on one of our family's house rules. Are you ready? Here it is:

Serve at least one vegetable and/or fruit with every meal and every snack.

Here's why we do it:

  • It adds fiber and vitamins.
  • It normalizes the appearance of produce on kids' plates.
  • It gives kids many opportunities to eat produce throughout the day
  • It makes plates colorful and fun.

Vegetables can take time. They're worth the time. But sometimes, I get it, you're dashing out the door, or tossing your kid a snack so you can answer the phone, or cleaning up spilled bubble stuff, or dashing in the door with your arms full of groceries and babies, and food has to happen NOW or else someone, maybe you, is going to cry. In these instances, fresh food is still doable, and can even be as quick as gnashing open a granola bar with your frustrated teeth.

To prove it, I've compiled a list of veggies and fruits to serve if you have just one, five, or ten minutes to spare. The list assumes you are starting from scratch, having done no preparation whatsoever, because those are the times when veggies are most likely to fall by the wayside.

I made a true effort to accurately gauge these prep/cook-times. When in doubt, I timed myself, which led to the--heartbreaking!--elimination of steamed sweet potato and steamed carrots from the list. Next time you're feeling all slow foodsy, invest the fourteen minutes it takes to get those yummy orange veggies on the table.

On the upside, I got a bunch of kale from the fridge to our plates in eight minutes. You can do this! Here you go.

If you have only ONE MINUTE, you can still serve:
  • frozen peas or sweet corn (still frozen!)
  • baby carrots or a whole peeled carrot
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumber slices
  • raw sugar snap peas
  • half an avocado
  • red bell pepper slices
  • frozen edamame pods (packed to-go; they'll defrost)
  • any fresh fruit (berries, apples, pears, bananas, clementines, grapes, etc.)
  • raisins or other no-sugar-added dried fruit

If you have only FIVE MINUTES, you also have time to serve:
  • smoothies made from frozen fruit and leafy greens
  • salad greens or slaw mix with vinaigrette
  • celery and nut butter or cream cheese
  • steamed green beans
  • steamed snow peas
  • steamed zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • sauteed fresh or frozen spinach
  • steamed or sauteed asparagus spears
  • steamed (frozen, pre-cooked) edamame pods

If you have only TEN MINUTES, you can serve all of the above, plus:
  • whole microwaved sweet potato
  • sauteed kale, collards, chard, or other hardy greens
  • steamed broccoli or cauliflower
  • stir-fried bell peppers

That's our list! Happy minute-munching, friends. And tell me: what did I miss?