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?

May 25, 2015

Healing Veggie Soup

"Mama, my soup is not healing me."

Darwin frowns, hunkered over a mug of creamy, golden soup. He sounds really disappointed, I think. It's actually hard to tell, because his voice sounds like a Brillo pad on a soup pot. My poor sweet pea is sick with a cold in the middle of May.

Like many moms and dads, I feel propelled to action when my kid is under the weather. I snuggle his ever-lankier frame. I plan movies and homemade popsicles. I kneel on the kitchen floor and whack a Thai coconut with the corner of my chef's knife, so I can offer him a cold glass of its water. Look out, virus. I've got a knife.

This particular cold got Darwin by the throat, and I wanted to make something soothing-to-swallow that would fill him up with a good variety of vegetables: a rich soup brimming with nourishing, gently-simmered kale, celery, carrots, and onions. It's so simple, yet surprisingly layered and tasty. Imagine the comfort of a potato soup, but a little lighter, more intricate, more vibrant. I call it Healing Veggie Soup.

And here's Darwin, four years old, a little pale and slouching in front of his mug, believing that our soup is actually a kind of elixir with the power to banish his cold. "Mama," he says again, "my soup is not healing me," the sadness in his scratchy voice suddenly so big. And what can I tell him?

"But it gives your body the strength to heal itself," I say.

What I don't say: "But it heals me to make it for you."


Healing Veggie Soup
Serves 4

1 small sweet onion
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups packed kale
1/4 cup cream (half and half)
1/2 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste
chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, saute onion, carrot, and celery in a few Tbls. of EVOO until the vegetables are glistening and soft, about ten minutes.

Add the kale and potatoes, and saute a few minutes more, stirring frequently, until the kale has begun to wilt.

Add two cups of water, salt, and pepper. Let the soup simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.

Remove the soup from the heat, and puree with an immersion blender (if you like some texture) or blender/food processor in batches (for a completely smooth soup.)

Whisk in cream to soup after blending and ladle into bowls with a sprinkle of parsley.

Baby sister loved it.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


"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.


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?"


"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!


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.


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.

April 2, 2015

Pin It Party!

Welcome, friends! I'm excited to take part in my second Lean Green Bean Pin It Party today.

If you're new here, here's what we do:
Whole, minimally-processed foods
Vegetables and fruits with every meal and snack
Bold flavors for kids AND Moms and Dads

Enjoy your stay, and if you like us, come "Like" us on Facebook, too! Thanks for your support and happy pinning. :)

Nutty, homemade toasted oat cereal with no added sugar and 100% whole grains!

A fun spring treat and a riff on the popular "Energy Bite" recipes with crunchy sunflower seeds instead of flax.

"A big, creamy, chicken-y, heartland casserole!"

Fast, creamy refried beans, dotted with kid-friendly veggies like zucchini and corn.

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Whip

Power-food for baby! Sweet potato whipped with creamy natural peanut butter.

March 29, 2015

No-Bake Speckled Energy "Eggs"

I admit to being kind of a purist when it comes to sweeteners. I use fruit almost exclusively to sweeten our family's muffins, cookies, and holiday treats. Recently, though, I've been looking longingly at recipes for sticky, no-bake "Energy Bites" like these and these and these, which are sweetened with an amount of honey that I dare say is measured not in tablespoons, but in cups. CUPS. Well, a third of a cup, anyway.

So I put on my substitutions hat. I tried a batch made with dates instead of honey, but the bites crumbled. I tried again, switching up ingredient ratios: Energy Gravel. I was dying to get it right, but I just couldn't.

Finally, I had to do something not-too-easy for me, because I was starting to feel a little haunted by these recipes. I had to just use the flippin' honey.

My kids aren't old enough to say, just use the flippin' honey, Mama! But when they are, I hope they'll help be that voice in our household. Because not only does honey bind together all these beautiful bits of seed and grain with an almost-floral sweetness, it's also one of life's little pleasures, in moderation.

And for an occasional treat, you can't do much better.

Here's what you get in these eggs:
100% whole grains
Whole-food plant protein
Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and coconut
Antioxidant-rich honey (instead of sugar)

A sweet indulgence you can make with love and share with your kids.

These nutty, chewy eggs are great for an Easter party potluck, or packed in a bento lunch as a dessert treat. And for me, they became part of my parent-education, reminding me to sometimes yield: to be the egg, not the eggshell.


No-Bake Speckled Energy "Eggs"
Makes ~ 15 eggs

1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, coarsely ground*
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Scoop and mash the mixture with the back of a spoon until they are well-combined.

Chill for 30 minutes or more.

Using your hands, roll the dough first into balls about one inch in diameter. Then shape each ball with your fingers to make egg-shapes.

Serve or chill in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat.

*I put my seeds in a sandwich baggie and break them up a bit with the back of a sturdy measuring cup.

March 22, 2015

Cheater Refried Beans

Darwin started preschool this year. Two mornings a week, his Dad drives him downtown and escorts him into a room of smiling teachers and hand puppets and alphabet posters.

They call it "drop-off," which sounds like some kind of cliff, or the part of the ocean where the sand bottoms out, and I find this aptly mysterious. It's hard to get information out of him about school, or what he thinks of it. When I ask, he's usually vague and positive ("it was good.")

Later, out of the blue, he'll start singing a song I've never heard before, or he'll say something like, "I made a new friend in class today."

"You did?" I'll ask. "What is your friend's name?"

"I don't remember. She brings a big blanket to school every day."

"Oh," I'll say, "well, that's cool," and I'll blink a little in amazement.

While Darwin is apart from us, singing and building things and fusing synapses of all sorts, I cook. It's almost the opposite of school: a meditative erasure. I do beans a lot on school mornings, because I can soak them the night before, and because I love and believe in beans, in a not-entirely-explainable but essential way.

These particular, delicious beans, my "cheater" beans, get their tiny southwestern kick from regular old jarred salsa. Like all beans, pintos come with plenty of protein, fiber, iron, and B-vitamins. They're savory and satisfying, speckled with kid-friendly veggies like chopped zucchini and sweet corn. Darwin, who'll eat almost any of my bean concoctions, likes this one the best.

He comes home from school with some be-pom-pommed craft in his hand and I give him a kiss and a bowl of beans, and then we go on with our day, filled up by good things.


Cheater Refried Beans
Serves 6

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight, rinsed, and drained
1 sweet onion, chopped small
1 small zucchini squash, sliced into quarter moons (optional)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
1 cup of good jarred salsa
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbls. butter
Toppings: fresh cilantro, avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, etc.!

Cook pinto beans in a pot (cover with water and simmer one hour or until tender) or a pressure cooker (our method--much faster!)

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, saute onion in butter over medium heat for about fifteen minutes, stirring frequently as it softens and begins to brown.

Add zucchini, if using, and saute five minutes.

Drain cooked beans and add to the soup pot.

Add salsa, and cumin, and salt, and bring the mixture to a bubble for about ten minutes to deepen flavors. If the beans begin to stick, add water a quarter cup at a time.

Add corn and remove from heat.

Serve garnished with shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or chopped fresh cilantro.

March 15, 2015

3-Ingredient Tropical Green Smoothie

I did the math: over a few fervent years in the mid-2000s, I drank around 1,500 green smoothies. We lived in San Diego at the time, where for a dollar, you could buy a bunch of organic parsley the size of a broom. I'd fill our grocery basket with strawberries and Valencia oranges and misty, sparkling bunches of spinach and kale. Then I'd strap everything to the back of my bike and ride home along the Pacific Beach boardwalk. Oh, those memories! Misty and sparkling indeed.

We were years from starting a family, but I knew I was drinking green smoothies for the sake of our future kids. Smoothies were a gateway to healthy eating for me, and they can be a powerful tool for kids, too, on their path to enjoying dark green leafy veggies.

Here's one of my favorite smoothie combinations, which provides a delicious and effortless serving of fresh fruit and greens. It's rich in Vitamin K, folate, fiber, and Vitamin C, and its tropical sweetness will win over all of kid-kind. You do NOT need a high-powered blender for this recipe; the spinach leaves are tender enough that any old lemon will grind them up.

Drink up, little ones! Cheers to Spring!


3-Ingredient Tropical Green Smoothie
Makes ~ 1 pint

1 frozen banana
1 cup fresh pineapple
2 packed cups fresh, raw spinach (more if you like!)

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup of cold water.  Blend until completely smooth and enjoy immediately.

March 8, 2015

Tamari Tofu Steaks

10:30pm. Dinosaur footie pajamas. Darwin is still awake, sitting backwards in a chair, watching me make tofu. I whisk the glossy marinade with a fork, then press dry each tofu slice with a flour sack towel.

"Mama's making tofu," Darwin calls down the hall to his Daddy. Bedtime isn't happening, but we're making do: I'm getting ahead with food prep while Triceratops Toes chatters and stalls. Someday he won't want to hang out with me when it's late and he's fighting sleep. I remind myself of this while I slip the fragrant pan into the oven.

I set the oven timer. Waiting time.

What is tofu, really? Don't laugh. I always forget and have to look it up. Tofu starts when whole soybeans are soaked, ground, and mixed with water. The resulting soy milk is coagulated with a salt (magnesium chloride) and the curds are pressed and cut into blocks. That's it. Even though it looks suspiciously modern and geometrical in its little plastic bathtub, tofu is a traditional, minimally-processed food, and one with tasty potential.

This recipe is our favorite preparation. The little steaks are sweet and salty, chewy and quick-to-make. We like them best cold, cut into rectangles and skewered with a food pick. They're a convenient, sustaining and sustainable protein, perfect on a snack plate of veggies or at breakfast-time, in place of eggs.

It's 11:15pm now, and somewhere between the flipping of the tofu and its cooling en route to the fridge, Darwin has wandered back into his room and fallen asleep. The monitor in the baby's room reports silence. The day is almost done.

So here it is: my Put-The-Kids-To-Bed, Bang-Out-A-Batch-Of-Tofu recipe. Everyone has one of those, right? No? Well, have mine.


Tamari Tofu Steaks
Makes ~12 tofu steaks

1 14-16oz container firm tofu
2 Tbls. tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbls. sesame oil
1 Tbls. unsweetened rice vinegar
1 Tbls. honey or real maple syrup
dash onion powder
dash garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 400, and line an aluminum cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Drain tofu, and slice into thin rectangles.

Using a clean flour sack towel or a few paper towels, press the slices of tofu gently but firmly, until they give up most of their water.

In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients.

Dredge each piece of tofu in the marinade, then place it on the cookie sheet. Space the steaks roughly evenly. Save any leftover marinade.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the steaks and drizzle any remaining marinade on them. (Try to avoid letting the marinade pool on the baking sheet; it will burn.)

Bake for another 15 minutes, then remove the steaks and let them cool slightly before serving. Or, cool completely and chill for later.

March 1, 2015

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Whip

Mamas and Papas with infants, this short, sweet post is for you!

When our son was an infant, our pediatrician gave us this standard advice: avoid feeding your baby peanuts during his first year, to protect him from developing a peanut allergy. But a new study out this week found that babies who eat peanuts regularly throughout infancy have an 80% LOWER risk of developing peanut allergies.

Reading the news, I began reminiscing about the sweet, whipped snack that Darwin loved to eat as a young toddler. It comes together in a minute and offers a miniature hit of Vitamin A, protein, and healthy fats. The creamy sweet potato tames the stickiness of the peanut butter, so even young babies can gum and swallow it easily. And if it helps prevent peanut allergies, too? Awesome!

My daughter Nova still breastfeeds exclusively, but I think she'll love this colorful little meal when the time comes for solids.

In the meantime, my son polished off this serving after I finished taking pictures. "We should have this more often, Mama."



Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Whip
Makes one baby meal

1/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1-2 tsp. creamy, natural peanut butter (look for an ingredients list with only peanuts and salt.)

Heat the sweet potato gently, and stir in the peanut butter. For babies new to solids, you may thin the mixture with a small amount of water or breast milk. Serve immediately.