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.


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!

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.

July 10, 2014

Zesty Quinoa Tabbouleh

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

Serves 3

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.