Saturday, October 21, 2017

Homemade SpaghettiO's

Wow, I blinked and 18 months flew by since last I posted here.  Life has been very, very good.  I had the best summer of my life, staying home July through September with sweet little Lucy.  I had grand plans for my maternity leave, to cook and prepare amazing summer meals from the garden or market.  In reality, I was lucky to get myself showered every other day.  Evenings with two little ones under two years old is no joke.  One or the other always has my attention.  It's exhausting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.



Lucy isn't quite ready for baby food (that will come soon enough, since the little squirt just sprouted 2 teeth already!).  And Frankie is generally a pretty good eater.  His absolute favorite food is cottage cheese.  But he'll also gobble up most fruit, raisins, carrots, peas, pasta, pizza, rice, potstickers, corn, toast, oatmeal, applesauce, yogurt, and of course anything sweet.  He mostly avoids or ignores meat and potatoes.


He loves to help make smoothies.  He'll eat most soups.  We do homemade pasta every now and then and it's always a huge hit.  I won't say he never gets processed food - animal crackers and goldfish are a standby snack.  But I've really tried to stay away from it.  At the lake this August, my mom tried to give him a microwave single serving cup of macaroni and cheese for the first time, and I was proud that he looked at it suspiciously for a long time before he tasted it.  Naturally, he loved it.  That stuff is like crack to kids.  For his 2nd birthday I made a pseudo-homemade baked macaroni and cheese (it had a Velveeta and cheddar sauce) just to ensure the kids would eat it and it totally worked.


Frankie hasn't yet tried that old kid favorite canned SpaghettiO's yet, and I hope he never does.  But Smitten Kitchen posted this dead simple recipe the other day that is PERFECT for families who need to get dinner on the table quick.  I have no idea if it tastes like SpaghettiO's, but it looks like them and it is yummy.  I liked the addition of chickpeas to amp up the nutritional value of the meal, but I can't lie to you...Frankie picked them all out.  Next time I'll blend them into the boiling water sauce so he won't even know it's there.


I didn't have round circle pasta, but I had a bag of alphabet pasta that had been sitting in my cupboard since Frankie was in utero.  In the past week, I've used that bag in this recipe, and two different soups.  He loves picking out the letters.  There seems to be a lot of "L - LUCY!" letters in this bag.


I recommend serving this with good bread and cheese (I had levain from Rustica and fresh smoked mozzarella), or a green salad, or both.

Homemade SpaghettiO's, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta shapes (orzo, alphabets, circles, etc)
5 cups boiling water
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Boil your water in a teapot or small pot.

In a large deep skillet, heat oil until shimmering over medium high heat. 

Cook garlic for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant and lightly browned.  Add tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook for 30 seconds more.  Add chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water.  Stir and reduce heat to low. 

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until pasta is soft.  Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Steel Cut Pumpkin Oats

If there's one recipe I've made over and over and over again since becoming a new mom, it's this one.  The restorative powers of a hearty, healthy breakfast can not be overstated. 


I generally have a pretty good little sleeper monkey, but some nights there are more wake ups than others, and a warm filling bowl of pumpkin oats is a great way to start a new day.


Since returning to work, I love having a grab and go serving of oats so this continues to be on rotation in my house while the weather stays cool! It's a simple, straightforward recipe that is delicious every time I make it. 


I've tried a dairy free version with coconut milk, and I've tried it in the slow cooker.  While both variations are edible, I found the pumpkin flavor muddied by the coconut milk, and the slow cooker gave the oats a somewhat less appetizing gummy texture.  I recommend the baking option.  Easy as (pumpkin) pie!


Steel Cut Pumpkin Oats, adapted slightly from The Kitchn
Makes about 8 servings

2 Tbsp butter, divided
1.5 cups steel cut oats
1 can pumpkin, or 2 cups pumpkin/squash/sweet potato puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
2.5 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups toasted pecan pieces
Optional: Maple syrup, cream, or whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large oven safe pot, heat 1 Tbsp butter and sauté oats for 3 minutes until they smell toasty.  Move oats to outside of pan and melt the other Tbsp butter in the middle.  Add pumpkin puree and fry in butter for another 3 minutes.  The mixture might get dark brown and stick to pan, that's OK.

Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir it all together.  Then whisk in milk, water, vanilla, and salt.  Scrape those brown spots off the pan and stir it all together.

Put a lid on the pot and bake for 35 minutes.  Carefully remove lid and stir in toasted nuts.  Eat immediately topped with a little drizzle of maple syrup and milk/cream or whipped cream.

I portion out individual servings into Tupperware for grab and go breakfasts throughout the week.



Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Crunchy Balsamic Slaw

There is a lot I could write here about what has happened in the last 10 months, but I really don't want to take the time to do it.  I had a baby 5 months ago.  He is happy and healthy and I love him to pieces.  I could write 10 posts just about the past 2 weeks and how much fun we have had introducing him to sweet potatoes, yogurt, and avocado.


But time is precious and I'd rather be somewhere other than on the internet in my free time now.  My lunch hours are spent on a mad dash through the grocery store to grab ingredients for dinner. My evenings are filled with giggles and snuggles, baths and bedtime stories.  Our dinners are often eggs or soup or (if I'm completely honest) delivered pizza or Thai takeout about once a week.  Staying healthy with distractions in your life is no joke and I really haven't been as successful at it as I hoped I would be.  I look back at some of my earlier blog posts and remember how much time I had to be creative in thinking up recipes, shopping, preparing everything, taking pictures, and writing about it!  Ain't nobody got time for that now!


I will, however, take a few minutes to enter this great salad into the record!  I've been spending way too much money on pre-packaged salad mixes from the grocery store to get my vegetables.  I bought four bags of different flavor mixes last week (Asian, Sunflower Mix, Southwest, and BBQ Ranch).  They were super simple to make and tasted fine, but they cost about four bucks each and I kept thinking that I could make it better.

Today I had a few free hours in the afternoon and I chose to spend them chopping vegetables!   It was a luxury to leisurely tear the kale leaves from their stems and use a mandoline to slice carrots!  I added in a few toasted seeds and a basic balsamic vinaigrette, and this was 10 times better than the bag mix.  The best part is that it is prepared and ready to eat after work this week so I have more time to sing songs about frogs and bicycles to my little boy!



Crunchy Balsamic Slaw
Serves 4

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves julienned
2 carrots, sliced thin on a mandoline
1 stalk of broccoli, head chopped fine and stem sliced thin on a mandoline
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1/4 cup toasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
4-6 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put prepared vegetables in a large bowl.  Shake dressing ingredients in mason jar or whisk together.  Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar if you like it acidic, or more honey if you like it sweet.  Toss dressing and veggies together and let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors merge.  It gets better the longer it sits.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki

Time is marching on, and regardless of the fact that we want to travel and finish fixing up our house and prepare a nursery and sleep in and do all kinds of other childless things, yesterday marked the halfway point of my pregnancy.  This bun is officially half baked.  On one hand, I'm very excited to meet this body roommate of mine; yet on the other hand, I do not wish to rush into an entirely new life. 


But really, life hasn't changed much around here.  The biggest difference I can point to is the fact that I've traded my daily glass of wine for an almost daily scoop of ice cream.  We are gearing up for another Memorial weekend camping trip and hosting dinner parties and doing yardwork and just living a happy newlywed life.  I am enjoying every minute.


Frank had his good friend Mead over Saturday to help him with some work on our basement.  I spent the lovely day running errands while they measured and hammered and sawed and Lord only knows what else down there.  I went to Bill's Imported Foods for the first time in a long time to get some fresh kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pita bread.


When I returned home, it took merely minutes to throw together these simple burgers, and we all agreed they packed a giant flavor punch. 


Greek Turkey Burgers
Serves 4

1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups spinach or kale, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 package lean ground turkey (1.25 lbs)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives (or less to taste)
2 Tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh dill (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 English cucumber, grated on box grater
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix together and let sit for flavors to combine.

In a medium skillet, saute your onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until softened.  Add chopped spinach or kale and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.  Cool.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, sautéed onion/spinach, feta, olives, sundried tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper, and 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Mix well and form into 4 patties.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Grill 5-6 minutes on both sides, or until center is no longer pink.

Serve on pita or bun with cucumber, spinach, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spinach Pie

Here's another entry for the "tasty but ugly" file.  There are so many posts that fit that category on this site, I should probably consider it as a new title for the blog!

I can't even show you what this Spinach Pie looked like on a plate because it was such a mess!  But as I sit here enjoying leftovers for lunch, I can't get over how yummy it is so I need to record the simple and healthy recipe.

Over a year ago, Frank and I were staying with his parents in St. Louis for his brother's wedding.  I was perusing a coffee table photo book about the history of St. Louis, which I find to be a culturally-diverse and fun city with some really great food traditions.  When I got to the section in the book about "The Hill" (the neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants), there was this recipe for Spinach Pie.  It looked so healthy and simple, I wrote the recipe down in the Notes app on my phone.  I've glanced at it occasionally ever since.


Last night, with Frank digging in the garden and me lounging on the patio swing, I decided it was time to try this recipe.  It's crammed with three boxes of frozen spinach, so it's super iron-packed.  And of course the Italian version of the recipe calls for fresh ricotta (pronounced by my father-in-law as "ree-GOAT-ah"), but I had only cottage cheese in my fridge (do not tell the aforementioned father-in-law this!) and it worked just fine. 

This pie is a cross between a quiche, soufflé, and casserole, made with simple and basic ingredients in one bowl.  Hard to beat, especially for busy working adults and/or parents.  As I was eating this ugly food last night, the constant thought that kept flitting through my mind (other than "yum!") was, "this would be a great way to get a toddler to eat spinach!" 


Spinach Pie
Serves 6

1 large yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1.25 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 cup red sauce (this is the Italian way of saying pasta/spaghetti/marinara sauce).
3 boxes frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1.5 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
6 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Saute onion in olive oil.  Add to a large bowl with all the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Pour into greased baking dish.  Bake 75 minutes.

Serve with extra red sauce and grated cheese.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mexican-Stuffed Peppers

It appears I have somewhat of a thing for "stuffed" recipes, as fully 67% of my last three posts feature something stuffed inside something else.  Is it because I like to use vegetables in new and interesting ways? Or because serving some stuffed vessel is a convenient and beautiful way to present a meal? Or perhaps I just feel stuffed myself with a 14-week old alien mutating in my belly?  The answer is all of the above.



I've made stuffed peppers twice this past winter, Italian-style with marinara sauce, but I can't for the life of me find the recipe I used! [Update:  my friend Ann is the one who originally gave me the recipe and it's this one.  She also recommends this one for a rice-free version!] Tonight I threw these peppers together with a Tex-Mex flair because longtime readers are well aware of my everlasting affection for spicy south of the border food.
 

I was originally going to just stuff these peppers with rice, beans, and salsa, but found a ton of stuff in my fridge that needed to be used such as a rice/jalapeño/pea side dish, a package of ground turkey, the dregs of a jar of roasted salsa, and a smidge of leftover enchilada sauce.  This is pretty simple to whip up yourself using what you have on hand or buying some simple ingredients like taco seasoning or enchilada sauce.

Mexican-Stuffed Peppers
Makes 4 large servings (I only made 2 servings and I have lots of leftover filling)

4 bell peppers
1 package ground turkey
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
Salt/pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup enchilada sauce or tomato sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350.

Cut peppers lengthwise and remove guts.

In large skillet over medium high heat, brown turkey with onion, jalapeño, and seasonings.  Add beans, rice, salsa, and sauce and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Fill peppers to overflowing, cover, and bake 30 minutes.  Remove cover, add cheese, and bake another 10-15 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Serve with Greek yogurt, avocado, lime juice, and/or your other favorite Mexican accompaniments.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie

The second I saw this shepherd's pie on The Kitchn website, I knew I was going to make it.  My carnivorous husband declared it "meaty!" even though it's vegan.  I thought it was the perfect healthy but comforting January dinner.  Very flavorful and satisfying!  Will definitely make again.

I served it with that awesome Winter White Salad (which I've mentioned a hundred times on this blog!!  Make it!!), but made less white by adding parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds.


I highly recommend baking and pureeing your sweet potatoes in advance, just to simplify your dinner preparation if you're making this on a weeknight.  Once that's done, it's a simple boil and sauté operation before throwing it in the oven for a brief stint. 

 
Too bad it photographs so poorly!  Don't judge this book by its cover please!
 


Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie, from The Kitchn
Serves 6

3 large sweet potatoes, baked and pureed
1 cup brown lentils
3/4 cup dry steel cut oats
bay leaves (3 or 4)
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages (8 oz each) mushrooms (I used one button, one crimini), sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a pot, boil 5 cups of water with your lentils, oats, bay leaves, and salt.

In a separate skillet, sauté mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in olive oil until softened.  Season with salt and pepper.

Drain lentils/oats and combine with sautéed vegetable mixture.  Add stock, wine, tomato paste, tamari, paprika, and parsley.  Simmer for 5 minutes to marry all flavors.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Pour mixture into casserole dish and spread sweet potatoes on top.  Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.