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.