crunchies

so, this “recipe” is beyond easy, and it is a showstopper around our house. fritz gobbles these crunchies up and then points and the bowl and grunts for more (we’re still working on his vocabulary…)

crunchies is what i call my non-mayonnaise-based cole slaw, cause i (personally) think that stuff is gross. we usually eat it on tacos (these in particular, try them, they rock) and also on pulled bbq chicken or pork. really though, i would eat this with a fork, it’s that good.

crunchies

crunchies

  • 1 bag broccoli slaw (this is just matchsticks of broccoli stalks, carrots, and red cabbage if you want to do it at home)
  • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • sea salt, to taste

mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. you can heat it slightly if you need to, but patience is really key here. once it’s ready, toss in the slaw mixture and combine (with your hands people, it’s the only way to really get it done) and set aside to “come together”. let this sit for about 15 minutes, occasionally diving in with your hands to mix it all about. that’s it, enjoy!

notes: the general guideline here is two parts vinegar, one part sugar and a pinch of salt to even out the flavors (you really need the salt). so use that guideline when going up or down in batch size.

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a new eggplant parm

i’ve always made eggplant parm in the same way. and it was always very good. i would grill the slices of eggplant and would make a delicious tomato sauce from scratch, then carefully layer the concoction and bake until bubbling.

recently, however, i attempted a new method and the results were amazing. the first alteration i made was to salt the eggplant to draw out the bitter liquids. i usually skipped this step because grilling was so time consuming. i have to say though, it was totally worth it! the eggplant was sweeter for the extra 10 minutes of patience. the second change was to par boil the eggplant instead of grilling it. not only does this result in a much healthier version of the dish, but the eggplant was softer in its final form and easier to manage during assembly. i really thought i’d miss the char-grilled flavor from before, but i honestly didn’t even notice it was gone. finally, i added a mixture of pork, veal, and beef to the tomato sauce. this really makes the dish sing, and was necessary for me due to the protein i need to intake every day for the p90x nutrition plan.

this is a more labor intensive dish than i usually make, but it’s well worth it and something that would be perfectly suited to a sunday dinner with the family.

a new eggplant parm

Untitled

  • 3 medium/large eggplants
  • 1 pound blend of beef/veal/pork (or any ground meat)
  • two 16 oz. jars store bought/homemade tomato sauce
  • 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt
  • olive oil

heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. in the meantime, peel and slice the eggplants (about 1/4″ thick). lay all of the slices out and then heavily salt them. let them sit for about 10 minutes. you will notice little droplets of liquid form on the eggplant during this time. rinse them off and then add them to the boiling water. you will likely have to work in batches. you want to cook the eggplant for about 6 minutes, or until softened and slightly browned. drain and set aside.

heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. add the meat and brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. you don’t want any large chunks of meat here, so be sure to break it up really well. drain off some of the fat (i just tilt the pan and use a large spoon here) or not, it’s up to you. add the tomato sauce and let it come to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and allow the flavors to come together for about 30 minutes.

preheat the oven to 375.

when all of the ingredients are ready smear a small amount of tomato sauce into a 9×13″ baking pan (there is no need to add oil here, the tomato sauce will do the trick). layer eggplant, then sauce, then cheese, and repeat until all of the ingredients are gone or the pan is completely full. be sure to top with a nice layer of cheese (it goes all brown and bubbly).

pop into the oven for 1 hour, and then remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes. enjoy!

notes: this is so delicious. fritz loves it, he gobbled up an entire piece for dinner last night! oh, and speaking of p90x, it’s been going great! papa fritz is down almost 30 pounds and i’m down 10. we both look and feel great. we are on our second cycle right now, in our 4th week of it…just in case you were interested.

banana zucchini muffins

about two months ago fritz stopped eating bananas. up to that point they comprised 25% of his entire diet, and maybe that was the issue…he was just over them. i’ve asked why, but he’s being very tight-lipped about his reasoning, so i’d given up trying to include them in his lunches or snack times.

the problem with that is that they are the perfect toddler food. easy to throw in a bag for a snack, cheap, sweet, nutritious…it left me in a bit of a lurch. so, when i found myself with a pile of bananas that were quickly going bad i decided to try and smash together two of the best sweet bread recipes in the world: banana bread and zucchini bread. i prayed he would eat these despite the addition of bananas (he did, and loved them) and that he wouldn’t notice the addition of vegetables (he didn’t). also, i am not renowned for my baking abilities (read: i kinda suck at it) and totally spaced on the addition of an egg…however, they came out great without it, so that’s how i’ve written the recipe. if you’d prefer to add one, i will tell you where below. recipe adapted from this claire robinson recipe.

banana zucchini muffins

(pictured in fritz’s bento box)

3.26.12 bento lunch

  • 5 ripe bananas (the riper the better)
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

preheat the oven to 375.

grate the zucchini on the small side of a box grater. you can leave the skin on for this as it’s so soft. if your kids notice and fleck of green and go running, feel free to peel it.

peel the bananas and place in a large bowl. add sugar to the bananas and mash together until they become a sweet-smelling liquid mess. set aside. heat a pot over medium heat and add the butter. melt and then continue cooking (stirring or swirling often) until it begins to brown and take on a nutty smell. add the banana/sugar mixture and cook for a few minutes until the kitchen smells so good that you want to stick your face in the pot and eat the bananas right then and there. return the banana mixture to the bowl (this is where you’d add the egg—tempering it— if you were so inclined). mix the zucchini and vanilla into the banana mixture.

mix the dry ingredients together and then slowly fold them into the banana mixture. line a muffin tin with paper cups and pour the mixture in until it reaches the top of the cups. bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when poked at with your finger. eat immediately and burn the roof of your mouth. enjoy!

notes: like i said, the egg isn’t necessary here. i totally freaked when i realized i’d forgotten it (while they were in the oven) but they don’t need it at all. they are dense and sweet and delicious. also, you can play with the amount of sugar, but i found that the 1/3 cup agave that the original recipe called for yielded a slightly dry and not very sweet muffin (apologies, claire).

creamy corn pasta with bacon

this dish has been rolling around in my head for a while now. i really wanted to use canned creamed corn in a recipe (don’t ask me why, i can’t even begin to tell you) and once our dear friend jonny gave us some homemade bacon, i knew i had the perfect combination of flavors to pull it off. the prep time for this is minimal, but the “sauce” does have to simmer on the stove for a little while to thicken. plan accordingly.

creamy corn pasta with bacon

creamy corn pasta with bacon

  • 1/2 pound slab or thick cut bacon
  • one bunch (about 6-7) scallions, white and light green portion only
  • 2 cans creamed corn
  • salt
  • one pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape

cut the bacon into chunks or cubes. add this to a large pan over a medium flame. cook this slowly while stirring often, rendering the fat, until it’s crispy. remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and set it aside. remove all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat and discard or save for future use (coughfriedeggscough).

cut the scallions into small discs and then add them to the remaining bacon fat. saute for about two minutes until they begin to soften and then add the contents of both cans of corn. bump the heat up slightly and stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken and reduce—about 20-25 minutes. meanwhile, cook the pasta per the package instructions.

grab one cup of pasta cooking water and set aside. add the cooked pasta to the reduced sauce and toss gently adding about 1 cup of pasta water* to loosen the sauce and bring it together with the pasta. add the bacon back in, toss gently, and serve immediately.

notes: fritz really liked this pasta, and was licking the spoon (and his lips) while i was cooking the sauce.  the bacon imparts a really nice saltiness to this dish, and i found that it didn’t need the other flavor i was going to add: goat cheese.

*you are probably wondering why i had you reduce and thicken the sauce just to thin it again. a couple of reasons actually:

  1. reducing the sauce intensifies the flavors of the sweet corn and slightly caramelizes the sugars
  2. using the pasta water helps the sauce stick to the pasta because of the starches in the water

butternut and apple soup

one day the family fritz visited ikea and found themselves in line waiting for delicious swedish meatballs. then, papa fritz said “i think i’m going to get some soup…”. well, this soup turned out to be a huge hit with both papa and sweet baby fritz. it was a blend of butternut and apple and was creamy and delicious with a sweet pop of flavor. mama fritz decided to recreate it at home, and here is the result…

butternut and apple soup

  • 1 butternut, peeled, halved, and seeded
  • 2 gala apples and one granny smith apple, peeled and cored
  • 1 leek
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 8 cups water (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

feed the peeled apple and butternut pieces into the shredder of your food processor. alternately you could shred these by hand, but only if you want to look like popeye when you are done. trim and cut the leek in half lengthwise, then run the cut side under water to remove any sand that has accumulated between the leaves. cut into little half moons (you only want the white and light green portions).

heat the butter and oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add the leeks (be sure to dry them or they will pop at you). add some salt to help the leeks release their juices and continue cooking until they soften and become glassy. add the shredded apples and squash  and then add enough water/stock to just cover the vegetables. reduce heat the medium and simmer until everything is very soft and beginning to fall apart.

use the immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is very smooth and add cream, salt, and pepper to taste. taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. enjoy!

notes: vegetable stock is nice in this, but it can be expensive, so i did a mixture of 1/2 stock and 1/2 water. serve this with crusty bread loaded up with butter. yum.

pasta with tuna tomato sauce

i first saw this recipe in a giada de laurentiis cookbook about 7 years ago, and was initially repulsed, which is funny to me now since this has become a mainstay of our diet. i have since found out that this is a common dish in italy. this sauce is so good, the tuna really sings here, and is paired perfectly with the tomato sauce. also, it is fast, easy, and is packed with lean protein. but mainly, it’s a nice change of pace from the standard pasta sauce…

pasta with tuna tomato sauce

  • 2 cans tuna packed in olive oil, lightly drained
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we used trader joe’s garlic lovers)
  • 1 pound pasta (any shape you like, really)

cook the pasta per the package instructions.

heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the slightly drained tuna. stir it around to heat it through, but try not to break up the big chunks of tuna. once it is heated, add the sauce and lower the heat to medium or medium low. you are really just looking to heat these and bring the flavors together. once the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the sauce and stir through. serve immediately. enjoy!

notes: fritz loves this. a lot. he loves all pasta, but the kid is partial to fish, so this is a hit. we eat it alongside a nice big green salad and some garlic bread.

panko crusted fish sticks

every kid loves fish sticks. and—though they may deny it— i don’t know a single adult that doesn’t love them as well. they are crispy and delicious and taste great dipped in ketchup. i grew up eating the fish sticks that came from the freezer section, and while there is nothing wrong with them, i knew i could make them the same (or better) myself. the beauty of doing it yourself is that you can add your own seasonings. however, i kept these minimal since fritz was going to be eating them.

panko crusted fish sticks

panko crusted fish sticks

  • 4 filets of tilapia
  • 1.5 – 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • non-stick spray

preheat the oven to 375.

begin by cutting your tilapia filets into fish stick-sized pieces (about the size/shape of an adult forefinger…i know, gross). anyway, once that’s done you will need to set up your breading station which just consists of three bowls in this order: flour (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste—use more than you think you need and add any other seasonings here if you want to use them), beaten eggs, and panko. i recommend using one hand to work with wet ingredients and one for dry, however, i always forget and dunk my flour hand into the egg, so do as i say and not as i do, etc. line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment and lightly spray it with some non-stick spray. then, commence breading by submerging the fish chunks first in flour (knocking off the excess), then egg, and finally panko. line them up neatly on the baking sheet and repeat until they are all done. pop into the oven for about 12-14 minutes (depends on the thickness of your filets, but don’t over cook them) and then sprinkle with a bit of salt.

notes: fritz loves these. he ate 8 of them in one sitting for dinner and then continued to put them away over the course of the next day. big hit. his favorite way to eat them is to dip them in ketchup, then lick off the ketchup, and then eat them once the breading is soggy. hey…we all have our “things”. you could probably freeze these while raw (on a baking sheet so that they freeze flat, then, once frozen put them into a storage bag) and then pop a few into the toaster oven whenever you need them. i haven’t tried this yet, but as i’m typing this i’m wondering why…maybe i will this weekend.

officially a toddler

so, my baby isn’t a baby any more. to be honest, he hasn’t been for quite a while now…but i was having some trouble adjusting to that reality. i was able to ignore the signs until this past weekend when i realized we were on the last batch of frozen baby puree, and knew then and there that i would not be making any more.

it was a hard choice to make because with the purees he’s getting a ton of vegetables. also, he likes them. but (and this is a big but) we are still spoon-feeding him (literally, not figuratively). i knew that we weren’t doing him any favors in this, so we’ve decided to use up what we have and move on to proper toddler food full time.

though i was intimidated (ok, terrified) at first by how we would get vegetables into the little man, i’ve since done some brainstorming and extreme googling and feel like we have a good handle on the situation. here is the list of items i’m planning to try out on him over the next month or so:

pepperoni with cream cheese, crackers with hummus/cheese, cinnamon raisin bread with cream cheese or apple/pumpkin butter, veggie booty and fruity booty, fruit-a-bu or homemade fruit leather (planning on testing this soon, so stay tuned!), puffed rice cakes, tortilla rolls with lunchmeat and cheese/cream cheese, pretzels, pasta salad with broccoli/spinach, whole wheat fig newtons, egg salad, hard boiled eggs, celery and peanut butter, ham and cheese croissant pinwheels, olives, cherry/grape tomatoes dressed with basil and balsamic, edamame, broccoli salad, mini corn muffins with kielbasa and cheese, zucchini pizzas, pickles, dr. praeger’s spinach cakes, root vegetable cakes with goat cheese, fresh veggies with goddess dressing, falafel with hummus, mini meatballs in tomato sauce, battered and baked green beans, and steamed veggie potstickers.

(if you have any other ideas, i’d love to hear them!)

the best part is that i’ve decided to take up bento for his lunches! i ordered some proper bento making items and have been cobbling together some bentos with what i have in the meantime. it’s been really fun! here’s a peek at the bento i made for his lunch (on the left) and breakfast (on the right) today:

bento 2.23.12

lunch: bartlett pear slices, 1/2 a whole wheat mini bagel with pumpkin butter, kiwi, mozzarella string cheese, animal crackers, diced canadian bacon, and sweet potato fries.

breakfast: sliced strawberries and mango, 1/2 a whole wheat mini bagel with goat cheese, and yogurt.