January 31, 2013

Lazy Parent's Minestrone

Minestrone-style bean and vegetable soup, kiwi, whole rye cracker with butter
We like minestrone. Long lists of ingredients, we like less. Ditto time-consuming recipes. Traditional minestrone, done well, requires standing sensitively over the stove for a while, adding ingredients in turn so that nothing turns to mush. It's really more of a job for people without toddlers.

Once I realized I could get the same rich, herb-y flavor as traditional minestrone with about half the ingredients and a seriously simplified cooking process, I got back on the minestrone bandwagon.

Of course, power to you if you want to throw in a handful of spinach, chopped green beans, whole wheat pasta, or zucchini. As is, this minimalist revision tastes like the real thing, and still fills little bellies with a good variety of veggies.

Lazy Parent's Minestrone
Serves 4

1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 15-oz can chopped or crushed tomatoes, with juice (if BPA concerns you, use Muir Glen or Pomi brand)
3 cups cooked, drained kidney beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
3 cups vegetable broth or water

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in a swirl of extra virgin olive oil until translucent, about ten minutes.

Add broth, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and dried spices, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and stir in parsley just before serving. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese for extra Yum.

January 29, 2013

Guacamole Snack, Sauerkraut Snack

steamed carrots and green beans with guacamole for dipping, sliced radishes, apple chunk
I have learned so many tricks about feeding toddlers this year. Here's one: kids will eat anything if they can dip it into something. Pick your healthy poison--guacamole, hummus, cottage cheese with a little garlic and herbs (or just plain cottage cheese), peanut butter, a little warm pool of garlic butter...

Then bring on the veggies.
kids love to dip
Five-Minute Guacamole
serves 3

3 ripe avocados, smashed
1 small ripe tomato, chopped small
1 clove garlic, grated
juice from half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up!


Remember that sauerkraut from the other week? Well, Darwin is INTO IT. He'll steal it off my plate if I don't give him his own.

garlicky curly kale, raw fermented sauerkraut, cheese slices, pear slices

January 28, 2013

Chickpea "Chicken" Salad, Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Chickpea "chicken" salad, sweet potato oven fries, apple wedges
If you Google mock chicken salad or mock tuna salad, you'll get about a billion recipes for chickpea-based salads. Let me nip in the bud any impulse you might have to shop around: this recipe is the best one.

Almost all other mock-chicken salad recipes include mayonnaise (or Veganaise), to try and reproduce the creaminess of the original dish. I'm not a fan of commercial mayonnaise for a bunch of reasons (refined soybean oil, gluey splattering out of those upside down squeeze bottles, etc.), but what really makes me scratch my head is that mashed chickpeas are already creamy, so why mess with that? Adding gloppy mayonnaise to the mix just makes it, well, gloppy.

This version uses Dijon mustard, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil to make a zesty, fresh dressing in a salad that gets its creaminess from the all-important legumes.

We all love this stuff. Darwin sometimes pauses mid-crunch to declare, "celery!" because that's just the kind of enthusiastic kid he is. I hope your family enjoys it just as much!

Chickpea "Chicken" Salad
(Serves 4)

3 cups cooked chickpeas, cooled, rinsed, and drained (canned is OK)
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
3 Tbls. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbls. Dijon mustard
swirl of extra virgin olive oil (1 Tbls or less)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, mash chickpeas with a fork or potato masher until creamy. Stir in celery and onion.

In a small dish, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle over chickpea mixture and stir until well-combined.

Serve a scoop on top of a green salad, inside a sandwich with lettuce and tomato, or plain. Enjoy!

Delicious variations: We've added shredded carrots, diced apples, curry powder (like curried chicken salad!) and other minced veggies with great success.


In other chickpea news, here's a dinner from earlier in the week that feature Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Chana Masala. This is in our regular rotation--we love a good spiced curry!

Chana masala, Mozzarella cheese, fresh berries, garlic curly kale

January 26, 2013

Real Food Family Staples

With all the corn puffs, flavored yogurts, crackers, applesauce cups, boxed mac-and-cheese, and meal pouches on the market, it’s easy to forget that not long ago in our history (and still today in many parts of the world), kids didn’t eat products; they just ate food.

At our house, we live by the idea that good food for one of us is good food for all of us. I never serve Kid something I wouldn’t eat myself, and I try hard not to assume that something I’m eating is too bitter, spiced, green, or exotic for him to share. (Sometimes this is hard! But he surprises me all the time. He’s into raw radishes right now.)

Nutritionist and food activist Marion Nestle has my back on this one: "
Kids don’t need kids’ food. If adults are eating healthfully, kids should be eating the same foods that adults eat. Babies don’t need commercial baby food. Older kids don’t need kids’ products. Families can all eat the same foods, and that should make life easier for all concerned. If you don’t want your kids drinking sodas, don’t bring them home from the supermarket. Teach kids to eat real foods early on, and they will be great eaters throughout life."

Of course, for this idea to work in practice, parents have to actually eat well! No kid will tolerate a heap of spinach while her parents gobble up slices of pizza. I think this is just one of the ways our children make us better people: by demanding of us fairness and consistency in our good habits.

What are your family’s good habits? How did you make them stick?

Here are some of ours, a humble list of seven foods we eat every (or most) days:

Sweet potatoes: On any given day, our fridge is stocked with a handful of foil-wrapped, baked sweet potatoes. There is something so simple and sweet and fulfilling about this vegetable, warm or cold, seasoned or plain. We sometimes stir in peanut butter for a decadent snack. Sweet potatoes make great oven fries, too: drizzle some wedges with extra virgin olive oil and coat with a few dashes of chili powder before baking. 

Broccoli: I have talked to enough pleased parents to shatter the myth that kids don’t like broccoli. At breakfast each morning (yes, breakfast!), we chop and steam a head of broccoli until bright green, then add a pat of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Broccoli is cheap, tasty, available everywhere, and fast-cooking. Plus, it looks like trees, which is irresistible to little imaginations.

Steel cut oats: The steel-cut variety is fresher and less processed than old-fashioned oats, which have to be steamed and rolled flat before packaging. A cooked pot of oats holds up well in the fridge for a few days, making quick work of morning prep. We stir in mashed banana, cinnamon, and/or frozen berries before serving.

Beans and Lentils: Did you know that the longest-lived populations on earth regularly eat beans? We pressure-cook a pound of dried beans every five days or so, to be added quickly to soups, stews, curries, and cold salads. Our pediatrician loves that we serve Darwin beans, because they’re a great source of protein and iron.

Whole Cheese: A few thin slices of rich cheese perfectly complement just about any kid’s snack plate. When we’re in a melty mood, it goes into pastas, quiches, or whole grain toast under the broiler. Even though cheese is an everyday food for us, we eat only a serving or two of dairy a day. (The earth’s climate, natural resources, and cows thank us for our moderation!)

Avocado: Blah, blah, blah, good fats. OK, but really! Little brains need healthy fats to best develop, and avocados have them in an easy, creamy, tasty package. Every since I (finally!) figured out that avocados ripen best in a paper bag with a banana, we eat them nearly every day, sliced or mashed on toast.

Fresh Fruit: I think Kid would trample down a door to get to a bowl of raspberries. Berries, pears, grapes, kiwis, oranges, bananas, peaches, pineapples: these things are the original treat for children. I adore the moments just after I give Darwin a little dish of berries, when he is all smiles at his good fortune, quiet and focused and appreciative.

Fast and familiar

What are your favorite real food staples?

Happy eating! 

January 23, 2013

Fruit-Sweetened Breakfast Cookies

The famous breakfast cookies!
I make sure we never run out of our freezer stash of these oat-flour based cookies. They are so sweet and moist, you would never guess they're made entirely of pure, whole foods, without any sugar, refined flour, or refined oil. Our kind of treat!

Breakfast Cookies
(makes ~20 cookies)

1 cup steel cut oats (or 1 + 1/3 cup oat flour)
1 egg
2 medium ripe bananas
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (gently heated, if necessary, into liquid state)
pinch cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mill oats into flour in high-speed blender. Add walnuts and cinnamon and pulse until walnuts are desired consistency (very fine, for toddlers.)

Whisk egg in a large mixing bowl. Add well-mashed bananas, carrots, zucchini, coconut oil, and raisins.

Fold dry ingredients into wet, being careful not to over-mix. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper and bake for 20-30 minutes, until tops of cookies begin to brown. (Keep an eye on the bottoms, as they tend to darken sooner than the tops)

Enjoy fresh or store in freezer bags for a quick, portable breakfast.

Sunflower Seed Burgers, Creamy Carrot Soup, Spinach Cupcake-Quiches

sweet potato rounds, clementine sections, avocado, cheese

sunflower seed burger, kalamata olives, spinach, apple slices

To my taste, store-bought sunflower seed burgers are a little dry, mealy, unexciting. I wanted to try making my own that were grain-free and packed with savory vegetables. The taste of these is terrific. Texture-wise, I'm still working on it. The outside tends to over-crisp in the oven before the inside firms up. Shaping burgers into a miniature size helps, and makes for a fun hand-held snack for little ones.

Sunflower Seed Burgers

2 cups raw sunflower seeds, ground into a flour-like consistency
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 1/4 cups organic crushed tomatoes
1 Tbls. soy sauce or tamari
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 Tbls. ground flaxseeds

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients well and form into small patties (1/3 cup or less of mixture per patty.) Bake 30-35 minutes on first side, flip, and bake 15 minutes more.

"Texas caviar" with black-eyed peas, veggies, garlic, and herbs

The little monster himself

Garlicky mushrooms, banana chunk, Ezekial breadsticks, creamy carrot soup, and garbanzo beans

This is a very easy, elegant carrot soup! Good things happen when you have a half gallon of organic milk to use up.

Creamy Carrot Soup

3 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3/4 cup half and half
dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in a swirl of extra virgin olive oil or pat of butter until translucent, 5-10 minutes. Add carrots and saute 5 minutes more.  Add 2 cups cold water, cover, and simmer 30 minutes, until carrots are very tender. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, then add milk and blend again. Add salt to taste (I think I started with 1/2 tsp.) freshly ground pepper and a sparing dash of nutmeg.

Cheesy spinach bites made with our friend's fresh eggs!

Cheesy Spinach Cupcake-Quiches
(makes 8 cupcake-quiches)

3 whole eggs
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
~4 cups fresh spinach, chopped somewhat finely
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 and fill a muffin tin with aluminum foil liners.

Saute onion and garlic in a swirl of olive oil until translucent. Remove from heat and add spinach to pan, allowing it to wilt slightly. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly, then stir in cottage and Mozzarella cheeses. When vegetable mixture has cooled slightly, add it to bowl along with salt and pepper to taste, then stir well to combine.

Fill muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes, or until centers have completely set.

Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

Cheesy spinach bite, blueberries, carrot shreds

Roasted chicken and vegetables, black beans, avocado

January 17, 2013

Turkey-Vegetable Meatballs

Turkey-vegetable meatball, Indian yellow split peas, garlic Tuscan kale, and young coconut meat.
We love these turkey-vegetable meatballs. We freeze them in batches and defrost one whenever Darwin's dinner needs a little something extra. He likes being able to hold and bite into them as much as he likes the taste, I think. The easy recipe is below.

The yellow split peas are a tasty and nourishing Alice Waters recipe.


Turkey-Vegetable Meatballs
(makes about 20)

1 lb good quality ground turkey
1 small yellow onion
1 packed cup mixed vegetables (minced button mushrooms, grated carrot, grated zucchini)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 whole egg
1/2 cup whole grain breadcrumbs (I made some out of the toasted ends of an Ezekial loaf)
1/2 tsp. fine grained sea salt
a swirl of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients well, form into ping-pong sized balls and bake on parchment-paper lined baking sheet 30-45 minutes.

And here's a snack:
Swiss cheese, skinny celery sticks, sliced tomato, whole rye cracker with butter

January 14, 2013

Will Kid eat this? We'll find out in a week!

Raw fermenting sauerkraut made from cabbage, sweet onions, and carrots

Mushroom pasta, banana biscuits

I'm always delighted to learn that Darwin likes something unexpected. This week, it's thinly sliced radishes.
Sauteed mushrooms and whole wheat penne with marinara sauce and basil, bake sweet potato rounds, and radish slices

Breakfast: banana with peanut butter and cinnamon, clementine sections, and broccoli with butter

These were supposed to be peanut butter cookies, made with whole fruit instead of sugar, but they came out a bit dense and under-sweet to be called "cookies" (not like our breakfast oat cookies, which are like magic!) These taste more like peanut butter toast with banana slices on top, which is also delicious! And, in "cookie" form, they're clean finger-foods.
Peanut butter banana biscuits
Busy stacking blocks on the coffee table

January 13, 2013

Salmon salad, stuffed rigatoni, simple plates

Salmon salad with minced raw vegetables, avocado, Indian bean stew, and kiwi rounds

Yes, I know, it looks like the work of an obsessed woman. It actually only took a minute to stuff this rigatoni with spinach. Kid polished it off with enthusiasm.
Whole wheat pasta stuffed with spinach, with jarred marinara sauce, pear slices
Whole milk yogurt, baked sweet potato, and Kalamata olives

Mashed avocado on sprouted grain toast, and apple slices