Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stages of Acceptance: Cold Chinese Pasta Salad, revisited

This post is to participate in Food with Kid Appeal's new "Big Words, Little Foodies" recipe swap. I know we've had more than a few moments with Abby like Big Boo's "Long Avocado," though rarely have they been about food!

Last night, I trotted out an old favorite for the kids - Cold Chinese Pasta Salad. I make this a lot in the summer and fall, but we hadn't had it in a while. Not wanting to go out and buy red pepper, I finally tried swapping in ribbons of carrot - with great success! I vastly preferred the thin ribbons of carrot (achieved with a simple vegetable peeler) to the bulky strips of red pepper. Even better - the kids preferred it, too!

Though she has had this dish a bunch of times, we still had to go through Abby's stages of dinner acceptance:

1. Initial rejection for imaginary, petty reasons

Abby: Mommy, what are you doing?

Me: Boiling the pasta for dinner.

Abby: Oh. I don't like boiling.

2. Visual inspection

Abby: Oh! These orange ribbons (the carrots) are so pretty! Like a present!

3. Continued petty rejections

Abby (who hates anything that is warmer than room temperature): This pasta is pretty cold.

4. Continued petty rejections, again and some more

Abby: This pasta is not getting on my fork! Mommy, it won't get on my fork!.... Oh. There it goes.

5. Acceptance:

(finally eats a piece) Abby: Oh! This is so yummy! I love it, Mommy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pizza Pancakes

This was another "pantry clean-out" cooking night - and this week's vegetarian dish! I made pancakes for breakfast over the weekend, and in the course of naming silly kinds of pancakes I should make, Abby said "pizza pancakes!" As it turned out, that didn't sound half bad to me! These were a fun dinner to make with the kids, and they went over pretty well - Lizzy and I gobbled ours down, Abby picked out and ate the olives, told me the sauce was yucky, and ended up eating only about 1/4 of her pancake. So, a pretty normal night for her!

Pizza Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour (I was out of whole wheat flour, shockingly. I assume these would work well with a half AP, half WW blend)
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup water
1 cup spaghetti sauce, plus extra for dipping
2 eggs, beaten
your favorite toppings, diced, about 3-4 handfuls worth (we did one handful of diced mushrooms, one handful of sliced olives, and 2 big handfuls of shredded Italian blend cheese)

Preheat your griddle / griddle pan / pancake cooking method of choice.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oregano.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the water, spaghetti sauce, and eggs.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until almost blended. Stir in your toppings, and stir until blended.

Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with extra sauce for dipping!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

I'm having a "no shopping" week, as it is beyond time for me to clean out the stockpile in my freezer and pantry. I unearthed some lamb sausage, purchased from Drumlin Farm late in the fall and forgotten in my freezer. I wanted to do this lamb some justice, so I turned it into a shepherd's pie. Lizzy tucked right into the ground mixture but eschewed the mashed potato; Abby wouldn't try any (but then proved that she had a tummy bug later that night, which may have tainted her willingness to try new things!). My husband was in heaven with this dinner!

If you are in the area and ever visit Drumlin Farm with your kids, check their freezers in the fall - they sell their beef, goat, and lamb meat, and we've gotten some amazing meats from there.

1 lb ground lamb (I used lamb sausage, but we couldn't detect much seasoning)
1 lb ground beef
1 cup diced onion
1 cup carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup diced celery
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup frozen peas

In a large pot, brown the lamb and ground beef. When it is mostly cooked through, remove the ground meats and set aside in a bowl - keep the fat drippings in the pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. They will start to get a little bubbly and very soft. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and then stir in the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, and then whisk in the worcestershire sauce, red wine, chicken broth, and water. Stir in the browned meats and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little. Remove from heat and stir in peas. Spread mixture into a 2-qt casserole dish. (I prepared my filling to this point early in the day and then stuck it in the fridge until I was closer to dinner time. I love dishes that I can prep ahead of time!).

Mashed Potato Topping: 1 - 1.5 lbs mashing potatoes, scrubbed well and chopped (and peeled if desired - I always leave my peels on)
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1/2 - 1 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
salt to taste

Put the potatoes and garlic clove into a big pot, filled with enough water to fully cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, lower heat slightly, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with a masher. Stir in 1/2 cup of milk and the butter and some salt. Mash some more. Add more milk as desired. Check to see if you need additional salt, and then mash in egg.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Spread potatoes over the meat filling in the casserole dish, creating a few pretty peaks. Cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the peaks of the potatoes are browning and the mixture below is starting to bubble out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Night's Soup

Our vegan dinner last week came courtesy of a new blog, My Family Dish, started by a friend of mine from my old neighborhood. Her Winter Night's Soup (a minestrone) jumped right out at me; I was intrigued by the slow-cooking of the celery, carrots, and onion at the beginning and by the promise of big flavor without relying on stock. I also wasn't sure what to think about butternut squash cubes in a soup (I love butternut squash bisques, but haven't had many soups with the squash left in cubes). This soup was amazing!

Now, my kids hate soup, but I took a great tip from Jenna at Food with Kid Appeal and served some cheese toast alongside the soup. This dinner was vegan for me, not so much for the kidlets. But, it worked! They adored their cheese toast, dipped it in their soup broth a little, and even deigned to try a few bites of the soup (Lizzy picked out every bean, Abby said "I'm only eating the celery" and proceeded to eat every bit of kale. I certainly didn't correct her!)

How can you not love a soup with this many colorful ingredients?

I was out of cannellini beans, which the soup called for, and subbed in black beans and garbanzo. The garbanzo were not a good substitution, although at least Abby would eat them (she adores hummus, so I just told her they were un-smooshed hummus, and she delighted me by eating each one!). I adored the butternut squash in this soup - it was unexpectedly rich.

Definitely give this soup a try; it was fabulous, rich, chock-full of veggies, and the leftovers made for some great lunches!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Penne Alla Vodka with Sausage

My husband's birthday was this week, and he requested that I try to duplicate our favorite dish at Vinny T's - penne alla vodka with sausage. My attempt was yummy, though fell short of the restaurant's version... but I suspect that they use a lot more fat in their version than I was willing to use!

I did have some qualms about posting this, as the evidence on just how much alcohol is burned off in cooking is mixed, and I know some people would never serve this dish to their kids. I serve my children beef stews that have been simmered in beer and chicken that has been braised in wine - and one of our favorite breads is yeast bread made with a bottle of beer. Vodka gave me some pause, but it's a small amount spread over a dish that had a large yield of servings (for my family, at least - my girls will only ever eat about 1/2 cup cooked pasta at most, so we have leftovers coming out of our ears!), and it simmered for about 20 minutes.

Better yet, it was something both girls liked and ate without complaint, and the dish was a breeze to put together. So, woohoo!

Penne Alla Vodka with Sausage

1 lb whole wheat penne, cooked according to package directions
1/2 lb sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving

Start making the sauce while you are bringing the pasta water to a boil. In a skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, breaking up into chunks.

When the sausage is cooked, add the garlic and basil and cook until garlic is softened. Add tomatoes and vodka. Bring sauce to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the pasta is done cooking (it took forever for my water to come to its first boil, and then cook the pasta, so my sauce simmered for about 15 minutes).

Drain the pasta and return to pot. Stir the light cream and parmesan into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Cook the pasta and sauce together, stirring constantly, for about 5 more minutes, until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce.

Serve, covered with more parmesan if desired.

* * * * *

Abby's birthday was the following night - her requested birthday dinner? PB&J, carrots, and tortilla chips. It could be worse! We used whole wheat bread, organic peanut butter and jelly, and multigrain tortilla chips... and it made for one happy 4-year-old!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Great Veggie Burger Search!

As I begin another week of menu-planning (and thus another week of vegan and vegetarian recipe hunting), it occurs to me: What is missing from my life is a great veggie burger recipe.

I don't care if it's bean-based, grain-based, or vegetable-based, but I want a yummy burger that I can serve alongside hamburgers this summer. I'd love something that I can grill, but I understand the nature of the veggie burger often demands that it be pan-fried.

So... do you have a veggie burger recipe that you love that I should try? Please email me either the recipe or the link to your blogged recipe at kara at ittybittybistro dot com - I'd love to try out any and all recipes and give them a mention here!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Mm-MM! I just had a big bowl of this for dinner and thought it was delightful. Neither girl tried it, of course, being a combo of many dreaded things for them (greens... soup... lentils...), so they had something else for dinner. But hey, maybe your kids are more tolerant of new things than mine are! This is certainly something to please the adults in the house, at least!

(not my photo. my pix made the soup look awful!)

I added a bunch of spinach that was on the verge of getting too wilted for me to care to eat, and I threw in the beet stalks that were left over from dinner the other night. Perhaps because of all this, I had to add a few extra cups of water with the kale. This soup had so much more flavor than I expected it to (I know that sounds bad, but...) - I am normally not a fan of kale, but it was just right to stand up to the sausage in this.

Go check out the recipe!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beans and Quinoa with Beets

Clearly, the holidays got in the way of a few things... like posting and trying new things (whoops)! Unfortunately, this has meant that I've been backsliding on feeding my kids and resorting to plain pasta or pb&j more than I care to think of.

I must admit that it's hard for me to get very psyched up about trying new things with my kids - both girls are being very difficult and picky right about now, and it's so so easy to just serve up a dinner that I know will be met with no complaints. On the other hand, I feel sure that if I never serve up anything new, they will never try anything new - and I'm a bit tired of serving up plain pasta 3 nights in a row!

My new goal for 2010 is to have one vegetarian dinner and one vegan dinner each week. We've always had at least one vegetarian meal each week, but I love the challenge of adding some vegan dishes to my repertoire. Tonight was a vegan night, and I was thrilled - both girls actually tried some dinner and ate a few bites! Neither of them finished, of course, but these are my kids we are talking about - the fact that they didn't burst into tears at the mere sight of a beet invading their plates is progress!

Beans and Quinoa with Beets

I saw a Martha Stewart recipe recently in which she boiled beets along with dried black beans, and I was interested to give it a whirl. This was delicious!! I sauteed the beet greens with some garlic, salt, and pepper (and a little olive oil) to have alongside, but didn't even attempt to serve those to my kids!

1 lb dried black beans, rinsed
3 beets, scrubbed and trimmed
1 tsp canola oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
fresh cilantro, chopped (to taste - I used about a handful but could easily have used more!)
quinoa, cooked according to package directions

Combine beans and beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the beets and let cool. Continue to cook the beans for 45 minutes more.

When cool enough to handle, peel the beets (rubbing them with a paper towel is an easy way to get the skin off) and chop them up. Set them aside.

When the beans are tender, drain them in a colander and set aside. In the large pot, heat up the canola oil and add the scallions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for one minute over medium heat. Add the beans back in, stir well, and remove from heat.

Stir the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro into the beans. Serve over the quinoa and garnish with beets.