Monday, January 16, 2012

Meatball Quesadilla and Healthy Sides To-Go Lunch

We have entered a new realm at our house: packing lunches for school. So far it's been great fun for me! But I've only made two. I know I'll run out of ideas very quickly so I wanted to save some so that I can refer back when I need inspiration.

My requisites are that the lunch be: healthy, clean-plate-club level of delicious, and quick and easy to make after the children are sleeping.

2 Trader Joe's Brand Frozen Turkey Meatballs
Cheddar Cheese
2 Tortillas (I used 365 brand traditional)

1) Bake meatballs according to directions (add some extra for next day spaghetti dinner.) When they are done, slice two of them up for the quesadilla.

2) Shred some cheese onto one tortilla, add sliced meatballs, shred more cheese on top of meatballs and top with second tortilla.

3) In preheated cast iron skillet, add a pat of butter and swirl around the pan. Pan fry the tortilla on each side til golden brown (cover skillet to promote cheese melting.

4) Slice up into triangles. Once cooled, pack two-thirds for child's lunch. Eat the remainder, right now. You are a hard-working woman and you need to eat a substantial snack, not cereal or chocolate.

Add healthy sides: half a pear, a banana, and a green salad to be dressed in the morning before school with apple cider vinaigrette!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vitamin C Breakfast

This morning I was looking around for something fast and healthy for my sniffling preschooler? I saw a light red heirloom tomato and decided to make my childhood favorite - butter and tomato toast. Since I didn't know how this would be received, I made a couple of fruit kebobs to go with it, and a small cup of warm black tea with sugar (a Russian cure-all.) It sure brought a smile to his face.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Operation Soup

As a toddler, Lucas loved soup. Now he doesn't. So I'm attempting a clandestine operation - serving him all the elements of the soup with just a little broth (this amount to be increased over time), throwing in a well-loved ingredient if necessary (this time - tomatoes) and sprinkling it generously with cheese. Last night it was pasta e fagioli.

*I like to cook the pasta on the side. It keeps it more firm for the soup when it's added one bowl at a time and makes it easier to construct a non-soup soup for Lucas.

From "Giada's Family Dinners"

4 sprigs fresh thyme (I omitted)
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1T olive oil
1T unsalted butter
1c chopped onion
3oz pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
(I used more discreet Great Northern beans)

A few handfuls Fresh, chopped spinach
(my addition, not in the recipe)

3/4 cup elbow macaroni (I prefer shells)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (for sprinkling on top)

Wrap the herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy saucepan over a medium flame. Add the onion, pancetta and garlic (I always wait to add the garlic a bit to make it doesn't burn.) Saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and herb sachet. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer til vegetables are very tender, about 10 min, Discard the sachet.

In a blender, puree 1 cup of the bean mixture til smooth then return the puree to the saucepan. (At this point, I threw in some fresh, chopped spinach.) Cover and return the soup to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni, cover, and boil stirring occasionally until the macaroni is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season the soup with pepper. Ladle the coup into bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and drizzle with evoo.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cauli-Pear Quinoa

I got this idea from one of the frozen baby food brands sold at Whole Foods and decided to make it myself. It was a HUGE hit so I thought I'd share. They recommend it for 9 months and older. It's a good balance of grain, fruit and vegetable - not being heavy on any one element. The consistency is like a creamy porridge with a bit of texture from the quinoa. I decided to leave one of the pears raw for the enzymes. To steam cauliflower, I just wash it and put the whole head into a pot with an inch or so of water on the bottom.

Quantity: This makes enough to set aside three good-sized portions to be eaten fresh for a couple of days (as well as many taste tests for Mommy.) The rest I froze in two ice-cube trays.

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups broth or water (to cook quinoa)
Three pears (peeled, two steamed until soft and one raw)
One small to medium head cauliflower (steamed until soft)

-Place quinoa and broth or water (I used 1 cup broth, 1/2 cup water) in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the germ spirals out, about 15 minutes.

-Place all ingredients into the food processor and process til smooth (careful not to leave any large chunks that baby could choke on!) adding a bit of water to reach desired consistency.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cranberries and Sugar

Some children will find this too tart. Mine loves it, but he has always liked sour fruits like blackberries and raspberries. My mom often had this for a snack so I picked up a taste for it as a child.

It's healthy, easy and also builds eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills (and just keeps them occupied for a while!)

Handful of whole, frozen cranberries
One tbsp white sugar

Briefly rinse frozen cranberries in a colander under cold water (to take the edge off coldness.)

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and sugar in a separate small bowl.

Pick up the cranberries individually with a toothpick (this is where the motor skills come in!) and swish around in the sugar. Eat. Repeat. The sugar should stick because the cranberries are still dewy from rinsing them.

Note: Lucas tends to pee-pee more at night when he's given these as his last snack, so it may be better during the day :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Okay. It's time I try to give this blog a kick-start and attempt to get some things posted in a more timely manner. It's been a busy summer, but now as the pool time and vacations wind down (now if only the heat would!) as we head toward fall, I know my desire to cook is going to go in the opposite direction and I will finally want to consider standing in front of that stove a bit more often.

To try to start things off, I have had a request for ideas for kids' school lunches. After awhile, the usual sandwich, fruit, and drink combo just does not cut it anymore. Kids desire variety just as much as we do, if not more. So if anyone out there with school-age children has some healthy, creative ideas for lunches, please do share!

There are two blogs I would like to share that both have really cute and appetizing ideas for the little ones: Vegan Lunch Box and Cooking for Monkeys. Though the creations on Vegan Lunch Box are, well, vegan, they could still be interspersed or taken piecemeal to adapt to an omnivore's diet. I especially recommend going back into her archives and reading some of her earlier posts. I have followed this blog for years at the advice of my dear friend, Kate. This blog alone made me want to have a kid just so I could pack lunches! Of course, now that I do have a kid, I am not sure how she finds the time to come up with all of these fantastic ideas, but it must be possible. The woman from Cooking for Monkeys has two children and goes to our church. She is a fantastic cook and also has some really great, healthy, super-cute lunchbox art.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tex-Mex Quinoa Macaroni and Cheese

I have yet to write a blog post about the positive and negative aspects of eating gluten-free (not to mention trying to avoid chicken eggs and soy as well), but one of the challenges I have encountered is trying to come up with good, easy meals that we can cook while on our three-and-a-half week camping/hiking trip out in California next month -- specifically, meals that can be reduced to one or two cooking pots. And, on top of that, finding meals that Elsa will also find enticing. So we have been testing out quite a few ideas around the house and on camping trips closer to home. We found a definite winner that Elsa seemed to love on our last camping trip to Vogel State Park over Mother's Day weekend -- tex-mex quinoa macaroni and cheese. It is easy, it is tasty, it is fairly healthy, and you can cook it in two pots (really, you could probably do with one if you really had to). We are sold. It came out slightly spicy, but Elsa did not seem to have a problem with it. She finished her portion and had seconds.

Tex-Mex Quinoa Macaroni and Cheese
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1 box quinoa elbow macaroni
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground meat (I used grass-fed ground sirloin)
1 package taco seasoning (I used Bearitos brand, as the ingredients seemed safe for me to use)
Water (however much your package of seasoning says to add)
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. monterey jack cheese, shredded

Bring a pot of water to boil, add quinoa macaroni, and boil until al dente.

Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil until slightly softened. Add ground meat, and continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain liquid from pan and add taco seasoning and water. Cook until liquid has reduced some and is slightly thickened. Add diced tomatoes with chilies and bring to a simmer. Add both cheeses and stir well until melted through.

Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the meat/cheese sauce. Stir well to combine and serve immediately. If it seems to thick, add some milk or heavy cream to thin it a bit (we did not have to do this, though -- the consistency turned our perfectly).