August 12, 2014
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.
Stovetop Baked Beans
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
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.
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
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.
Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
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
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
|A breakfast rich in folate, vitamin K, and sulfur compounds|
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!
Parmesan Broccoli Minute-Hash
Serves as many as you like
Fresh broccoli, chopped into evenly-sized florets
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.
July 10, 2014
Darwin loves parsley with quirky intensity. If he spies the frilly greens in his dinner, he fishes them out with his fingers for an unadulterated taste. In the garden, he plucks and eats the leaf tips until I shoo him away from the poor, balding plants. Can I blame him? Not really. Parsley is a great love of mine, too. He probably remembers it from the womb.
In the July heat, along with rescuing the parsley plants, one of my daily quests is to cook up a healthy, tasty meal plan that doesn't actually involve cooking anything up. Here is one cool dinner idea, a zesty tabbouleh bursting with lemon and middle-eastern herbs, that's especially easy if you've got cooked quinoa already in the fridge (you should totally have cooked quinoa in the fridge!)
A plate of tabbouleh, cold chicken, and sweet potatoes pre-baked in the cooler morning hours.
When you prepare the tabbouleh, take care to mince the herbs finely, which helps distribute their potent flavors. Kids love to dump and stir the ingredients together. Enjoy.
Zesty Quinoa Tabbouleh
2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
1 small ripe tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber
2-3 Tbls fresh lemon juice
2-3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil salt to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Serve room temperature or chilled.
April 21, 2014
A memory: evening-time, twenty-odd years ago, my dad and I unwrapped a cavernous, moldy wedge of blue cheese. Next to it, a Triscuit box waited with cardboard flaps thrown open like hands asking why not?
My dad used a knife to apply the creamy smears of blue cheese onto one cracker at a time before placing them in my small hands. They were delicious! And I felt big eating them, initiated somehow by this adult-seeming food.
Darwin's too young to understand the slightly sophisticated reputation of blue cheese; he just knows he likes to eat it. He loves this spread, too, which marries the salt and tang of blue cheese with the smooth, mild familiarity of cream cheese and cheddar. It's a perfect way to share blue cheese with kids, especially when the serving bowl is rimmed with crunchy vegetables and whole grain crackers. The crackers pictured are a Triscuit-style cracker with two ingredients: whole wheat flour and salt. You can find one version at Whole Foods, and another version at Stop & Shop under the "Nature's Promise" label.
Baby-Blue Cheese Spread
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
8oz cream cheese, softened
6oz sharp white cheddar, grated
Combine all ingredients in a food processor with 1 Tbls. cold water. Process until smooth. Serve immediately for a creamy dip, or chill for a firmer spread.
April 13, 2014
Our beloved Darwin turned three! - a jumping, joking, willful, curious, superhero-shirted three. At his birthday party, he indulged in his first ever classic cake (my mother's recipe, with butter cream frosting) and became the proud recipient of SEVEN superhero capes. Afterward, ordinary life resumed for our newly-minted three-year-old, with its morning trips to the library and walks around the muddy yard, dreaming of spring...
We cook together a lot these days.
He loves having a hand in the family food: scrambling eggs, tossing vegetables in oil. I sweep up a fair share of grains catapulted accidentally across the room, but I think it's a worthwhile sacrifice.
I'll help you. I'm a little bit small, but I'll help you.
I can only say yes.
One-bowl recipes like this one are especially fun to prepare with a little helper. Today, though, I cook by myself while Darwin plays at his Grandma's house. The clink of measuring cups echoes in the kid-less kitchen. I suddenly realize I'm sitting on the floor, whisking and stirring! Internal wiring: changed.
Scott and I relish this rewiring, this weird, big-hearted life with our kiddo. And in October, I'm excited to share, we'll be welcoming kiddo #2! Darwin is absorbing this news with curiosity and tenderness:
Does the teeny tiny baby in your belly walk?
Does the baby climb walls like Spiderman?
Is the baby in MY belly?
Does the baby eat food?
I'm girl-thinkin' (As in, "thinking it will be a girl." This cracked us up. We have never said this, and have no idea where he came up with it!)
Is the baby THIS big?
Is she bigger than Australia?
I love you, little baby.
Pregnancy in the first trimester sent our normal eating habits into a tailspin. We made a few compromises during those intensely queasy weeks (gobbling boxed whole wheat Annie's shells and gloppy mayonnaise in our salmon salad), but I also developed a whole collection of great recipes to satisfy ultra-specific cravings. (How did I manage this?? I was so tired! Who knows.) In the coming weeks, I'll share them with you: crispy baked Ezekial chicken tenders, sugar-free baked beans, baby blue cheese-spread, veggie-filled beef stew, and many others. I can't wait!
Thanks for sharing our happiness and anticipation as Kid Can Eat becomes Kids Can Eat!
Peanut Butter Quinoa Bars
Makes 6 bars
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup dry rolled oats
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8" baking dish with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg. Add all remaining ingredients and give them a good stir.
Spread batter into the baking dish and bake 20 minutes, or until edges are beginning to brown.
Let cool 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Refrigerate or freeze leftover bars.
February 9, 2014
|(dreamy ants on a log closeup)|
Darwin hops, a little, when he's excited. He's hopping now, as I slick some spicy peanut butter onto a celery stick, and stud the sticky stuff with dried fruit: 1950s throwback snack, with a hot sauce twist. I give him the plate.
Are those the ants?
They're not really ants, though.
Are you sure? They look like ants to me.
I can't fool this kid.
But I am relishing his new interest in crunchy vegetables. He's been toothy enough to handle them for more than a year, but his expression chomping a raw carrot has long communicated, I disapprove of brittle plant matter.
Now that he enjoys crudites more, sticking to our veggies-with-every-meal-and-snack mantra has become a little breezier. Raw snap peas, cucumbers, carrots, and celery out-convenience most cooked veggies (not that we're abandoning those, of course), and even many packaged foods. And though Darwin's munching is sometimes tentative, and he occasionally aborts a a bite midway through, I take satisfaction in knowing he's tackling this messy business of learning how to eat well, one snack and meal at a time.
I started making this spicy snack, sans ants, many years ago in San Diego. I first shared it on the vegan recipe site Veg Web, where I described it as "reminiscent of buffalo wings and spicy Asian peanutty dishes."
reminiscent of Buffalo wings, and spicy Asian peanutty dishes. - See more at: http://vegweb.com/recipes/spicy-peanut-butter-and-celery#sthash.qCuiu39Y.dpuf
reminiscent of Buffalo wings, and spicy Asian peanutty dishes. - See more at: http://vegweb.com/recipes/spicy-peanut-butter-and-celery#sthash.qCuiu39Y.dpuf
Fire Ants on a Log
Serves as many as you like
celery stalks, rinsed and cut into 3-inch pieces
natural peanut butter (buy peanut butter with oil separation)
Frank's Red Hot sauce
raisins or other small dried fruit
In a bowl, combine a few Tbls. peanut butter with a few dashes of Frank's, to taste
Smear peanut butter on celery, top with raisins, and serve.
February 2, 2014
We renamed the holiday "Friendsgiving," because family celebrated elsewhere. We hailed from New York and South Carolina and California and Kentucky, places too far from Florida to justify traveling for one weekend. Instead, my grad-student writer-friends and I potlucked, crowding into a decided-upon apartment bearing foil-wrapped bowls and platters. Paper squares labeled the dishes, each in a different ink and handwriting. We drank and talked and stabbed our extravagant feasts on paper plates, sitting on the floor or in cat-scratched armchairs.
I learned that writers tend to be unusually good cooks, and to care deeply about food. Past Poet Laureate Charles Simic, for his part, recounts how an old colleague used to narrate a detailed sausage-and-peppers recipe to his writing students on the first day of class:
"The point, of course, was not just to stimulate their appetites, but to show them the degree of love and devotion to the smallest detail required to turn this simple Italian dish, often poorly made, into a culinary masterpiece. Writing stories and poems was like that too, he told them. Instead of the ingredients he had just conjured, there would be words, experiences, and imaginings to combine. Actually, what he demonstrated to his students was the ancient relationship between cooking, eating well, and storytelling."
This was Friendsgiving in all its happy and homesick glory: creative people connecting around good food and stories.
Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms (Gluten Free)
Makes 16-18 mushrooms
16-18 medium-large button mushrooms, rinsed and pat dry
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 sweet onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls. minced fresh Italian parsley
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
In a large pan, saute onions and celery in a swirl of olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, pluck stems from the mushrooms and discard or save the stems for another recipe. Arrange the mushrooms on the cookie sheet in rows.
Add garlic to veggies and fry one minute more.
Stir quinoa into the pan with the veggies, and cook briefly, until evenly warmed.
Remove pan from heat and add cheese and parsley. Stir to combine. Taste and add pepper and salt if you like (remember that Parmesan is a salty cheese already. I add only pepper.)
Use a spoon to generously stuff the quinoa mixture into the mushrooms, then drizzle olive oil loosely across the rows.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until quinoa tops are crispy and brown, and mushrooms are soft and have given up their liquid.
Serve warm with extra parsley sprinkled as a garnish.
January 30, 2014
I've rounded up some recent favorites to take part in the Lean Green Bean Pin it Party. Thanks for your support, you harried parents (and non!) who make dinner materialize every night, because it matters. Pin, pin, pin!
January 26, 2014
Darwin and I are food shopping. He's buckled into the cart, and I hand him things to drop in: a pound of carrots, a bunch of rappini, a bag of dried beans, sprouted grain English muffins, and a few oranges. I give him a knot of ginger and he inhales the scent, deeply. Things are going pretty well.
Enter Bunny Cookies. They're small and chocolate or honey or some other sugar-attracted flavor and neither of us has ever eaten one, or seen someone else eat one, or gotten a look at one out of the box, but it doesn't matter. Darwin wants Bunny Cookies, and strains against the buckles to point. "I want to buy them!"
OK, I've got this. "Those cookies aren't very healthy for our bodies. I'll make us some bunny cookies at home." Then I let him pick out a special fruit instead. Thank you, universe, for my usually-not-tantrum-prone child.
Now, of course, Darwin often reminds me how I promised to summon a hopping army of healthy bunnies from our oven. The whole experience drives home how influential cool shapes are, whether we're serving broccoli trees or sweet potato stars or strawberry Santas or those bunny cookies I'll get around to eventually.
In the meantime, as I wait for bunny inspiration to strike (got any?), I'm making my little boy Valentine these sprouted grain English muffin pizzas, cut simply into hearts for the season...
Kids can spread and sprinkle the toppings themselves, and the mini pizzas have the hand-held appeal of the classic English muffin pizza...
Look for a marinara sauce that has five or fewer grams of sugar per serving, and extra virgin olive oil instead of soybean or canola oil. Choose whole milk mozzarella for healthy fats, and grate it at home for the best taste. Top with herbs and veggies like chopped basil, red onions, olives, mushrooms, and bell peppers.
Sprouted Grain Pizza Valentines
Makes 4 little pizzas (2-4 servings)
2 sprouted grain English muffins (we use Ezekial brand)
1/2 cup good quality marinara sauce
1 cup freshly-shredded mozzarella
optional toppings: chopped basil, onions, olives, mushrooms, and bell peppers
Defrost muffins and cut them in half.
Cut a v-shaped divot into each muffin, then slice from the sides and top to make a heart shape. Save the scraps for breadcrumbs, or to dip separately in marinara.
Spread sauce and sprinkle cheese and veggies as you like, then toast. We made some "upside down" so the red sauce really popped.
January 19, 2014
A long time ago, I tackled lentils as a matter of parent-preparedness. Our recipe collection needed a great lentil stew, I reasoned, so Darwin could hold onto something earthy and sweet, humble and harmonious as he grew up and ventured into the world.
I launched the search unnecessarily early. I imagine (remember?) poking my big belly against the kitchen counter to chop celery and fill pots with practice-stews. Here's another likely beginning: the astonishing day Darwin's dimpled hand swiped at solid food for the first time.
I scoured every book and blog I could find, tested recipes, and reported back to Scott: "It's pretty good, but it's not going to be our stew." The right one was still out there, somewhere.
Lentils enthuse me for good reason. Rich in protein, iron, fiber, folate, and B-vitamins, these disc-shaped legumes have a way of combining the big and little things of the world: they're ordinary and inexpensive, but they link us to people across oceans and continents and even to our neolithic ancestors(!)
Here in our kitchen, the magic of discovering the perfect recipe arrived like the meal itself, as a slow, subtle unfolding, a gradual deepening. I tested and tweaked for months, over- and under-complicating techniques and ingredients, until one day, almost when I'd stopped paying attention...
Serves 6 or more
1 lb lentils, rinsed, drained, and sorted
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled
3 celery stalks, chopped or sliced
1/2 cup (uncooked) short-grain brown rice, well-rinsed and drained
8oz tomato sauce (we like Muir Glen brand)
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 Tbls. unsulfured molasses
juice from half a lemon
a swirl of olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp. sea salt
In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, saute onion, carrot, and celery heat until translucent, about ten minutes.
Add lentils, basil, thyme, sage, and seven cups of water. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce heat to low, just the barest simmer. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
When the timer dings, add the rice and bring back to a simmer. Cover, and set the timer again for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and gently, adding a little extra water if the lentils are starting to breech the surface. (Don't exceed 1 cup extra water)
When the timer dings, add the tomato sauce and molasses. Set the timer for fifteen minutes.
When the timer dings, turn off the heat, and stir in salt and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings before ladling into bowls.
January 12, 2014
A new friend at a dinner party casually snagged a leaf out of the salad bowl, crunched it between her teeth, and did a double-take."Woah. What did you do to this?"
It was the same question I'd asked my dad a few nights earlier, my speech garbled by a mouthful of romaine. He'd told me how my grandmother (who's about to turn 91) used to rub a cut garlic clove around the inside of a salad bowl before adding the greens: an old French trick. Now my father puts the good stuff where it counts, crushed directly into a ramekin of peppery extra virgin olive oil. The garlicky oil glistens and marinates on the counter for half an hour before it's time to toss the salad.
Outrageously, there's only one more ingredient: salt, which transforms this into one of the best green salads I have had in years. Trust me on the omission of vinegar. The salad is punchy and complex all by itself.
As you chop and toss, think the perfect partner to a cheese omelet. Think spicy, cancer-preventing garlic. Think a resemblance to the Italian appetizer pinzimonio, which marries colorful crudites with a strong, salted olive oil. Think cold-pressed olive oil for a healthy heart. Think an elegant side salad that takes five minutes to make.
As for Darwin, he still confuses "Romaine" with "The Ramones." He's a salad lover in training. I always, always put a few leaves on his plate, and he usually munches one or two, wanly interested. His favorite salad remains our mayo-free coleslaw.
He'll come around.
Garlicky Romaine Chop
Serves 4 or more
1 small head of fresh, crisp romaine
1/4 cup peppery extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
sea salt, to taste
Pour olive oil into a small bowl, and crush the garlic cloves directly into it. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
Wash and thoroughly dry romaine, and chop into one-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, toss the chopped romaine with the garlicky oil until the oil coats each piece. Taste a leaf, and drizzle in extra oil from the bottle if needed. (Don't worry, it won't dilute the garlicky goodness.)
Sprinkle sea salt on the lettuce to taste, and serve immediately.
January 5, 2014
Happy 2014! It's January, which means we grapple with big plans and questions, like, is it time for healthy change to the way my family eats? Or is it time for luscious pancakes?
This recipe says, Here. Have Both. These pancakes are powerful. A bite may compel you to your recipe box or bookmarks to toss or delete whatever refined-flour recipe you used to make. They move me, too: picture me dashing across the street in my pajamas to borrow an egg from my neighbor so I can mix up a batch. (In gratitude, I bring her a pancake hot from the skillet.)
Yes, that's cream making them magically rich (and providing healthy saturated fats for growing brains.) Those are sweet fried bananas belying the need for syrup. A little hit of vinegar lifts them up like a summer breeze.
And they positively sparkle...
Coarse flour, with visible bits of bran and germ, digests slowly and prevent insulin spikes. Use stone-ground whole wheat flour for the best nutrition. Then pair the pom pancakes with freshly steamed broccoli, because broccoli belongs at breakfast.
Pomegranates are fresh and beautiful at the markets right now here in New York. If you're reading this off-season, the recipe is equally enjoyable with a variety of fruits. In the summer, I top the pancakes with juicy sloops of white nectarine.
Looking for more healthy pancakes? WHY? (Just kidding. Here.)
Whole Wheat Pomegranate Pancakes
Makes 10 pancakes
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 cup half & half
1 Tbls. cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbls. virgin coconut oil, melted
butter, for frying
1 large banana
1 pomegranate, arils extracted and rinsed
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cream, egg and vinegar, and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Into the "wet" bowl, add coconut oil and vanilla.
Pour dry ingredients into the wet ones, stirring and folding to combine. Do not overmix.
Let batter rest for a few moments while you heat a pat of butter in a large nonstick pan (we like ceramic) over medium heat.
Ladle batter into the buttered pan, 2-3 cakes at a time, and top each cake with sliced banana and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. Cook until popped bubbles leave little craters in the top of the pancakes, then flip and cook until golden brown, a few minutes more.
Serve pancakes hot, topped with more pomegranate seeds and fresh bananas or a little real maple syrup if you wish.