Kitchen Adventures

A few months back, we had a pediatrician visit where we were warned that Vivi was entering the stage of her life when she would start to show signs of finicky eating.

We’ve been very fortunate in this respect for most of Vivi’s life. The kid loves to eat. And, up until recently, she seemed to enjoy just about everything we put on her plate and would gobble it down without much resistance.

And then the toddler years hit.

It’s not that Vivi became exceptionally picky, but I did notice a new resistance to trying new foods or textures. Bread reigned supreme, while zucchini got the cold shoulder. Even foods that I knew she actually liked, like avocado or ground turkey, would sometimes be met with rejection upon first presentation. Rather than succumb to the temptation to simply fill up her belly with pasta and marinara sauce every night (always an acceptable option in Vivi’s book), I focused on trying new foods in familiar ways, adding tasty sauces that would dress up less appealing items, and capitalizing on flavors I know she always likes — all whilst keeping nutritious veggies in the forefront of her menu items.

It doesn’t always work (I am dealing with a toddler, after all), but these five recipes are pretty consistent ways I’ve found to get the little stinker to consume more produce. (And, bonus, they’re also totally delicious for adults.) Two of them I created myself, but the three others I’ve linked below. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal

peanut butter and jelly oatmeal

Ok, this isn’t technically a veggie recipe, but it does get a hefty serving of fruit into your toddler (and it can barely even be called “cooking” because it’s so dang simple).

Ingredients:
1 packet instant oatmeal (I prefer this version from Trader Joe’s)
handful of frozen organic berries
1 T natural peanut or almond butter
1 T chia seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Start boiling a kettle of water. Pour the instant oatmeal into a small bowl, and then top with frozen berries, peanut butter, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Once water has boiled, pour desired amount over oatmeal and stir to combine. Once the berries have softened, you can give ’em a little squish to get all those delicious juices to naturally flavor and sweeten the rest of the oatmeal. Tip: Pour the water directly onto the berries to thaw them quicker.

Spinach Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

spaghetti squash with spinach pesto

I love, love, love this recipe, and not just because it provides multiple servings of veggies in every bowl. The first time I made it, I had serious doubts about whether or not Vivi would even try it, and she wolfs it down every time. Total mom win. (FYI, the picture above is when I made it with chicken sausage, which you can totally do if you’re strapped for time, but I think Viv actually prefers the turkey meatballs and that’s how I usually make this one.)

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash
1-2 T olive oil

Pesto:
1 bag organic baby spinach
1 avocado
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2-6 cloves garlic (I use a TON of garlic, but you do you)
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Meatballs:
1 T olive oil
1 package ground turkey
1/3 c bread crumbs (sub GF if you don’t do the gluten thing)
1 egg
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 t oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Clean your spaghetti squash and cut in half length-wise. Drizzle with olive oil, and place cut side-down on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Once it’s done baking, remove and allow to cool. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out the inside. It should come apart easily into noodle-like strings.

While the squash is baking, put all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. (Note: This makes a lot of sauce, so you will probably have enough left over to smear onto sandwiches or drizzle onto tacos. Do your thang.)

Next, put the T of olive in in a large skillet set to medium-high. Combine all of the other meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with your hands until just combined. Form into 1-inch balls. Once the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs and cook, slowly turning until all sides are browned and the meatballs are cooked through (about 5-7 minutes).

Assemble your plate spaghetti squash>meatballs>pesto. Tip: I always serve the squash with a bit of sauce to Vivi first, then meatballs. She tends to give veggies more of a chance when she’s at her hungriest.

Sweet Potato and Chicken Sausage Hash

sweet potato and chicken sausage hash

For this one, my only tip would be to make sure the peppers are thoroughly cooked and soft. Vivi likes the taste of cooked peppers, but if I leave the skin on, they’re difficult for her to chew unless I cook them down for at least 10 minutes.

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies

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Again, I really recommend starting your toddler with the veggies here. We tend to serve Vivi’s meals in “courses,” and it typically goes green veggies (broccoli, green beans, spinach), then sweeter veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes), then protein, then bread or carb. And because Vivi isn’t a huge fan of white or red potatoes, I put potatoes and carrot in each forkful and she ate happily.

Greek Turkey Burgers

greek turkey burgers

Pictured is the adult way to eat these. (So delicious.) For Viv, I served a cucumber course with yogurt dipping sauce, then a burger with a bit more yogurt, then a piece of bread, and she ate all without any fussing at all.

 

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I’ve realized I am a much more creative cook in the fall and winter. It could be that the summer months are usually too hot in NYC to even think about cooking. (Turn on my oven on a 90-degree day? Are you insane?) But I also think I’m just a lot more inspired by fall produce.

One thing I’m especially fond of is squash. Pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti — I dig ’em all. 

My mom tends to cook acorn squash a lot, so for a recent visit of hers, I decided to create a stuffed version made with ground turkey (one of Vivi’s favorite foods) and quinoa. It turned out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you fine folks. Enjoy!
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Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients:
2 acorn squash
3 T olive oil, separated
1 c quinoa
2 c water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T rosemary
1/2 T thyme
1 t nutmeg
1/4 c pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and dry acorn squash and cut in half. Scoop out seeds. Drizzle olive oil on a baking pan and place squash slices cut side down. Bake for 30 minutes, then set aside.
  2. While squash bakes, pour two cups of water in a pot with 1 T of olive oil and salt to taste. Once boiling, add quinoa. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed. (About 15 minutes.) Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. While quinoa cooks, heat 1 T of olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook 2-4 minutes until fragrant.
  4. Add turkey to onion mixture. Add in spices. (To be honest, the measurements are just estimations. I tend to just eyeball it and shake in as much of each spice as I like.) Cook until turkey isn’t pink anywhere, stirring frequently.
  5. Once turkey is cooked through, add quinoa, pecans, and dried cranberries. (Note: You can also toast the pecans in a small fry pan for 5 minutes prior to adding.) Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Place scoops of the turkey mixture in each acorn squash half. If either part has cooled too much, return to the oven to broil for 2-4 minutes.
  7. Before serving, add a dollop of Greek yogurt to each stuffed squash. Happy fall!

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I don’t know what it is, but I have been on some kind of sugar kick over the last week. I’m going to blame it on the fact that my period finally came back after a year-and-a-half of pregnancy/breastfeeding hiatus. (Too much info? Then you’re reading the wrong blog.)

The point is, for the last five days, I’ve been craving a Double Stuf Oreo (yes, that’s really how it’s spelled) something fierce. So last Thursday, I finally bought a pack.

Which was a mistake. They should sell the Double Stuf in smaller portions. Because now I come home to a FULL PACK of Double Stuf Oreos every day. Send help.

But while the cookies were good for sating that particular craving, they also sparked a new issue: Now I wanted something else sweet. I wanted a dessert martini.

You guys? This is SO out of character for me. I do not like sweet drinks. The only sweet things I like are desserts, and even then, I prefer when there’s something salty or slightly bitter mixed in.

But here I was, craving the saccharine syrupy-ness of a dessert martini.

I didn’t even know where to begin, but I figured the least I could do was whip something up at home.

And thus, the Mounds Bar Martini was born.
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Here’s what you do:

Mounds Bar Martini Recipe

Ingredients:
1 oz whipped cream flavored rum
1 oz coconut vodka
1 oz half and half
drizzle of chocolate syrup
Oreo cookie dust for garnish (optional)

Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and shake vigorously until frothy. Draw a line of chocolate syrup around the inside of a martini glass, then pour in the cocktail mixture. Top with a pinch or two of Oreo cookie dust. (BECAUSE YOU HAVE A WHOLE PACK, AFTER ALL.)

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The result is decadent, rich, and exactly what I was craving. I think I’ll probably be good on dessert martinis for another five years, so it was definitely worth going all out on this one. Because sometimes you feel like a nut…and sometimes you just want to drink your dessert.

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I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast pastries. Or, really, pastry in general. It’s the way it basically melts away in your mouth. Did you even eat anything at all?

If I’m going to consume the calories, I better at least be sure I had a snack.

The only breakfast baked goods I tend to enjoy are scones. A scone is basically a cookie (which I love), and it’s got enough heft to it to leave me feeling full.

When I make them at home, I try to incorporate a few more nutritious ingredients as well. My homemade scones are usually made with almond flour (more protein and gluten-free for my pals that go that route), coconut oil (instead of butter, in case you’re watching your dairy intake), and agave nectar (instead of sugar). I like that they’re not super sweet. I’m not even sure you can technically still call it a scone, but, heck, I’m eating it for breakfast, so I will what I want.

This is the recipe I make most often, but when I found myself without any dark chocolate this past weekend (quelle horreur), I decided to get a little creative.

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I had a giant box of organic strawberries that I had picked up at Trader Joe’s (after promising myself that I would finish them before they went bad and I had to throw all that money in the trash), so my immediate thought was to make strawberry scones.

Then I had a flash of inspiration: peanut butter and jelly scones.

I used my chocolate chip scone recipe as a sort of outline for this recipe and then subbed in the new ingredients, and the results…well, put it this way: Joey’s response to eating one was, “This is the best thing you’ve ever baked.”

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He’s a bit of a peanut butter addict, but I’m still taking those kudos to heart.

Here’s how to whip up your own gluten- and dairy-free scones for a little weekend treat:

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Almond Flour Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

Scone Ingredients:
2 1/2 c almond meal or flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 c chopped fresh strawberries

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c almond milk
1 T powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine your scone dry ingredients.
3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your scone wet ingredients, then pour into the medium bowl with the dry ingredients.
4. Fold in the strawberries.
5. Using an ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), scoop the batter into round lumps, about 3-4 T each, about 1 inch apart on the prepared pan. (They don’t spread, so don’t worry about fitting them all.)
6. Bake for 17-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
7. While the scones are baking, whisk your icing ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk if necessary to create a light, creamy consistency (sort of like toothpaste).
8. Spoon the icing into a piping bag (or a sandwich baggie with a corner cut out if you’re fancy like me). Once scones are cool, drizzle with the icing as desired.

One thing to note: The fresh berries carry a lot of water, so you may need to bake your scones a few minutes longer if you want the insides to be firmer. Mine were soft on the inside, which my family prefers. Alternately, you could dehydrate the strawberries in your oven prior to adding them to the batter to avoid excess moisture.

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Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

What’s that? Two cooking posts in a row? Aren’t I a little icon of domesticity these days? (Of course, “in a row” might be considered a stretch since my last post was a couple weeks ago. Oh, life with a baby!)

Anyway. As I said last time (because nothing has changed in my life, guys), I’m cooking more. Blah blah blah blah anecdotes.

The point is, I cooked this thing the other day, and it turned out pretty tasty, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Truth be told, it was one of those days when I had a few key ingredients in my fridge (in this case, gnocchi and chicken) and I decided to scan the interwebs for recipes I could make using said key ingredients. I found something that was generally what I was looking for, but I had to fill in a lot of gaps and improvise since I didn’t have everything that the original recipe called for. In this case, I substituted my favorite spices and a container of takeout Chinese broccoli left over from lunch the day before. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Or, in this case, leftovers I don’t want to throw out are the mother of dinner. Or something.

As I said, though, the resulting dish was met with positive reviews, so I figured it was worth a post. Especially considering the only other posts I have rolling around my head are Vivi updates (keep your eye out for her two-month post…it’s coming next week) and thoughts on my new life as a housewife. I’ll get around to those. Probably. At some point.

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Ingredients:

3 T olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups broccoli (or Chinese broccoli, which is what I used because multicultural fanciness!), roughly chopped
1 tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 T butter
2 T whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 chicken breasts, baked and shredded
1 package whole wheat gnocchi
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

Add the broccoli, rosemary, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove veggie mixture from skillet and put into a bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

Add butter to the skillet and melt. Stir in flour until mixed thoroughly.

Add the chicken broth, almond milk, and cinnamon. Cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes.

Stir in chicken and gnocchi until coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until slightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

I used to cook a lot when I was single and then when Joey and I first got married. I even had a whole section of this blog dedicated to what I dubbed my Kitchen Adventures.

But then around the time I was living on Long Island, I got a job back in the city and suddenly had a much longer commute to contend with. So Joey started taking over cooking duties. It started with a few nights a week, but it eventually became one of his primary responsibilities around the house.

What can I say? He’s good at it, and I’m a sucker for a man who can cook.

Over the last year or so, it has evened out a bit more as to who is wielding the spatula in our kitchen. But now that I’m home every day with the baby, I’ve tried to pick up more of the cooking slack. I mean, it’s not like I have tons of free time when I’m home, but I like to think that by taking one thing off Joey’s plate (by, you know, putting something on his plate) I’m giving him more time to spend with the Vivster when he gets home.

All of that is a long way of saying that I actually have a new recipe to post! My transition into total housewife is almost complete, you guys.

It all started with my book club. I’m in a club that meets about every two months. We try to read a variety of books in different genres and styles, and we do what we can to theme the food we eat to the book.

This month, we read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. After the necessary choices like tea and pastries had been covered by other book club members, someone suggested a meat pie of sorts to add some heartiness to the meal. I still hadn’t offered to bring anything yet, so I offered to make some kind of mini chicken pot pie. (Mostly because I had no idea what other kinds of meat pies exist, and I was scared to google it.)

After I made my offer, I decided it could be fun to create my own recipe using some of my favorite fall veggies. I’ve been cooking with a lot of fall produce lately, and I’ve never met a root vegetable I didn’t like. So the idea for my Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies was born.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could sub in basically any kind of vegetables you like, so get creative! Here’s what I used:

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

INGREDIENTS
1 chicken breast, baked and diced
1 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits

The most time consuming part of the recipe is chopping all of the veggies, but I promise it’s worth it.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Once everything is chopped, combine the vegetables, chicken, cream of chicken soup, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
  • To assemble the pies, lightly spray a muffin tin with coconut oil or the cooking spray of your choice. Flatten one biscuit dough in each muffin cup, making sure it extends up the sides. This creates the crust for each pie.
  • Fill each crust with a heaping pile of the veggie mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. (Check it around 12 minutes. You might need to bake for longer depending on your definition of “heaping.”)
  • Let stand for a few minutes after cooking and enjoy!

When I made this, I accidentally made way too much of the veggie mixture, so I used the leftovers to make a bigger chicken pot pie for Joey and me the next day. Dontcha love a twofer? The result was pretty delicious, and also pretty, well, pretty. Autumn is totally the best season, folks.

I also recently made a stuffed acorn recipe and salmon with roasted root veggies, but I forgot to take photos. If I make it again soon (which I probably will), I’ll write posts for those too.

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

What are your favorite fall recipes? Do you love root veggies as much as I do?