“Baby Ghanoush”

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Life has changed considerably since the last time I sat down to post a recipe here. Most of my cooking these days isn’t even for me and my husband anymore… it’s for our 9 month old twins!

As a dietitian, I’m frequently asked if I cook all of my babies’ food myself. And most people are surprised that my answer is “no!” I would love to cook 100% of their food. Honestly I would. But as a mom of twins with a full time job (not to mention an hour and 15 minute commute each way) plus a part time job online, I need to take shortcuts here and there to maintain some level of sanity and sleep. Instead of staying up at night peeling, coring, dicing, steaming, and pureeing apples, I’m perfectly ok with buying jars or squeezy-packs of baby applesauce. Yes, I go for the organic brands, but I’m not going to beat myself up over failing to provide homemade apple or pear sauce. What I’ve learned in the past 9 months is that nothing you planned pre-kids is going to happen the way you pictured it, and perfection is unreasonable. You just figure out what’s most important to you, and focus on that.

That being said, I do try to make most of the veggies (which I find generally easier to prepare than fruit) and all the proteins they’ve tried so far. Since they’d already tried most of the basic go-to’s, I was looking for recipes for how to introduce eggplant, and was surprised that I couldn’t find much. So I decided to invent my own!

I didn’t come up with the name “Baby Ghanoush” until I was in the middle of feeding it to them, but it’s a play on baba ghanoush, the mediterranean eggplant dip. Recipe is as follows (amounts are approximate since I wasn’t measuring; also can be adjusted to taste):

  • 1 whole eggplant
  • 1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp chopped garlic
  • small handful fresh parsley

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight in 2 cups water. The next morning, change the water and boil for about 1 hour. I didn’t use canned garbanzo beans because they all had added salt, which babies shouldn’t have, but if you can find unsalted canned ones, go for it! I also added these instead of doing straight eggplant to give it some protein. Roast the eggplant whole on the middle rack of a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Note: do not prick holes in the eggplant, cover it in foil, slice it, etc. Just stick the whole thing in there. The Kitchn has an article on why this is the best way! Once it’s done, let it cool and then slice the top off and remove the peel, or cut open and scoop the flesh out with a fork or spoon. Add the eggplant and chickpeas to your blender/Vitamix/baby food maker with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

I usually leave a day or two’s worth of portions in the fridge and freeze the rest in Mumi & Bubi baby food trays. Then you can pop the individual portions out and store them in a labeled freezer bag.

The verdict: taste tested and approved by two babies — one who is pretty picky as 9 month olds go — and three adults (we had a friend visiting who actually wanted to taste my baby food)! I’d be curious to hear the results if anyone tries this out with their babies — leave a comment!

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Spaghetti Squash Three Cheese “Mac” & Cheese

Welcome to FALL! One of the things I love about fall is the ability to turn on the oven without needing to also turn on the air conditioner to counteract the heat overload in this very small apartment.

A couple of nights ago I made a dish using spaghetti squash for dinner and consequently had half a squash left over. What tends to happen with me is that I make a meal for the sole purpose of using up something left over in my fridge (a few days ago it was cherry tomatoes), and then end up having a different leftover ingredient. So instead of just throwing some sauce on the squash like I usually do, I started looking for other ideas and came across a picture of spaghetti squash “mac & cheese.” Yes please! But the recipes I was finding mostly used reduced fat cheese. I have a theory about reduced fat or fat-free cheese: don’t do it. I’d much rather eat the fat and all the flavor that comes with it than the chemicals they use to remove the fat from the cheese. If you don’t want to eat the fat that comes with cheese, just don’t eat the cheese.

So, without further ado, my own version of FULL FAT Spaghetti Squash Three Cheese “Mac” & Cheese! (It should be noted that I added broccoli not to make it “healthier” but because I thought the color and texture contrast would be nice and I also happen to love broccoli that’s been slathered in cheese).
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If you do not already have leftover spaghetti squash, you’ll need to obtain one, medium sized, and slice it in half (carefully! I almost lost a finger cutting a raw squash in half once), and scoop out and discard the middle goop and seeds (or save the seeds for roasting for snacks). Preheat the oven to 375. Spray the squash halves lightly with olive oil and turn them upside down (so the peel is facing up) on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes. Once it’s soft, scoop the strands out of the shell with a fork.

While the squash is cooking, warm 1 cup of milk in on the stove with about 3/4 cup each of grated sharp white cheddar and gruyere until the cheese begins to melt. Whisk until all the cheese is evenly melted,.remove from the heat and whisk in 2 Tbsp flour. Let the mixture cool a little, and then stir in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt and a pinch of salt, fresh pepper, and nutmeg. Combine the sauce with the spaghetti squash “noodles” in an oven safe dish. Add your broccoli if you’re using it (or spinach); I used organic frozen broccoli florets and defrosted them ahead of time and squeezed out the excess water. Sprinkle everything with grated parmesan cheese (you could also add breadcrumbs or panko) and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. I also threw on some red pepper flakes before it went in the oven because I like it with a little kick!

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Now enjoy your hearty fall vegetarian meal! Note: to make this gluten free, just use a gluten-free flour, like rice flour or tapioca flour. To make this vegan… uhh… sorry, I think you’re out of luck.

I’ve also included a pic here of my kitchen piglet: my almost-14-year-old pug who insists on standing under me as I cook so she can have first dibs on whatever hits the floor. Her back was covered in parmesan cheese!

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creamy polenta with radish tops, rainbow chard, cannellini beans, poached egg, & parmesan

Sometimes I impulse buy chocolate. Sometimes I impulse buy rainbow chard. Today was a chard day! It just called to me as I walked past it on my way to get eggs.

When I got home, I realized I didn’t have much of a dinner plan. I had a bunch of radish tops left over from last night’s salad, so I wanted to add the greens to the chard. I think swiss/rainbow chard goes well with either Asian or Italian flavors, but we’d been on a 4-day long Asian style dinner kick thanks to this ridiculously good salad dressing from the farmer’s market (Momo dressing – try it if you ever see it. Sooooo goooooood). So Italian is was! I then discovered half a bag of polenta my sister gave me at some point, and an idea came together.

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For the polenta, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil, then salt it and add 1 1/2 cups of polenta, stirring slowly. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir frequently for about 15 minutes until thick. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and salt to taste. I also added a touch of a bouillon cube for more flavor at the end. You could also buy pre-cooked polenta and either heat it up or slice it into circles and pan-fry it.

For the veggies, sauté a chopped red onion for about 5 minutes, then add two cloves of minced garlic and the chopped up stems of the chard. Once the stems were tender, add the leafy parts of the chard and radish greens (optional) and season with salt and a little vegetable bouillon (also optional). Finally add the cannellini beans at the end just to heat them.

While everything was cooking, I asked my husband if he thought a poached egg on top would go well. He looked at me like I’d asked whether air conditioning might be a good idea on a 105 degree day. We have these cool little silicone egg cups called Poachpods for this purpose (because I suck at poaching without them). I highly recommend them – they’re worth the $10.

So, to put everything together, start with a layer of polenta on the plate, then a big scoop of the radish tops/chard/cannellini beans. Scoop out a little hole in the center, and drop in your poached egg. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, a little extra salt & pepper or red pepper flakes if you want, pop that yolk, and enjoy!

Note: this meal did end up having more of a winter feel to it (i.e. we had to turn on all the fans in the room halfway through because we were overheating), but I’m always cold, so no complaints here!


spiralized sweet potato “noodles” with baby spinach, fresh basil, and organic uncured turkey bacon

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So here’s the part where I guiltily admit that I haven’t posted an entry in 7 months. Too busy to write about food? What could I have been doing!? Well, talking/writing about food! As a full time inpatient pediatric clinical dietitian AND a part time online nutrition coach, sometimes by the time I cook and eat, I just don’t have the energy to write about it. But tonight I was extra motivated by the arrival of our newest kitchen gadget… the spiralizer!

Let this post serve as both a quick recipe idea and a gentle warning about buying cheapie versions of kitchen gadgets. I’ve been eyeing spiralizers for some time now, but have been making do with my mandolin when I want to make zucchini noodles, or zoodles, because the spiralizers I’ve seen at my local kitchen gadget store are around $50. (Check out this helpful article for some background info if you’re unfamiliar with the recent spiralizer craze). But when my husband got an email deal for $10 spiralizer, we just couldn’t say no! The suspiciously inexpensive Mamazura SpiralMaster was ours just two business days later.

In theory, you can really spiralize any semi-firm vegetable or fruit: zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli stems, carrots, apples, butternut squash, turnips… you get the picture. For the first trial, we decided to branch out and use a veggie other than zucchini, which I’ve kind of zoodled to death over the past year. So sweet potatoes won the vote.

The recipe I chose was inspired by this one, but I don’t eat pork so I swapped out the pancetta and made a few other small changes, the biggest change being not actually making noodles. First, I washed and peeled two medium sweet potatoes and spiralized them per the package directions (or rather my husband with his superior arm strength spiralized them… and by that I mean shredded them into an unrecognizable orange mess). This particular spiralizer couldn’t seem to produce long ribbons, no matter how far around you contort your wrist, and we ended up with what looked like a pile of shredded carrots. It also created unsuable torpedo-shaped leftovers of sweet potato core (pictured below for comedic value) which I guess I’ll slice up and bake into fries this week at some point.

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Once you have your graveyard of dead sweet potato shreds in front of you (or long delicately curled ribbons, depending on your device), heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté a diced white onion until translucent. Then add a large minced clove of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cooking for about 2 more minutes. Then add in 4 slices of chopped uncured organic turkey bacon and cook until starting to crisp. Add the sweet potato “noodles” and season with salt and pepper. Then add 1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and a handful of chopped fresh basil. After the liquid has reduced completely, cook for about 3 more minutes or until the sweet potato thingies are cooked through. Finally add in 3-4 packed cups of baby spinach and cook until wilted.

What came out of my pan at the end of this was truly a sweet potato hash and not noodles in any way. In the end, a mandolin probably would have done a better job. But it was tasty! And I will battle the spiralizer again, maybe with a different object of more uniform diameter. Some suggestions for swaps: instead of turkey bacon, you could do grilled shrimp as a pescetarian option, or crispy tofu or chickpeas for a vegetarian option, or even a fried egg on top. Also, this would be pretty good with some shaved parmesan on top. Honestly the only reason it’s not on here is that I forgot to pick some up at the store and wasn’t going to go back out in a heavy thunderstorm to get some!

The morals of this post: don’t forget the parmesan in a thunderstorm, and don’t skimp on your spiralizer.


copycat squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita

Last weekend my husband and I had a stay-local date night at one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood, Thistle Hill Tavern. Some of their menu items change seasonally, and there was a new side dish that I knew I had to try the second I read it: squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita! It was every bit as good — or better — than it sounded. It arrived in a clay hotpot, this glorious piping hot bowl of Indian-spiced squash and a cool yogurt sauce with a kick to it. The server even brought us some thick slices of toasted bread to swipe up every last morsel from the bowl. I’m a copycat when it comes to my favorite restaurants, and I’ve stolen (attempted to recreate at home) some side dishes from their menu before, like their buffalo cauliflower with gorgonzola, so after one bite I said I wanted to try to make this one. So here goes!

IMG_6230Dice 2 medium sized yellow onions and sauté them until translucent in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large heavy pot. While the onion is cooking, mix your spices together in a small bowl: 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves. Add the spices and 1 large minced garlic clove to the onions and cook about 1 minute. next add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the liquid (my go to brand is San Marzano), and about 4 cups of cubed butternut squash. I was lazy with the squash today and bought pre-cubed squash at Whole Foods because it’s such a pain to chop. They didn’t have pre-cut acorn squash though, so I bought a whole one, poked some holes in it, microwaved it until it was soft enough to cut (about 6 mins), de-seeded it, and scooped the squash out. Finally, add the acorn squash, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup water or broth, and 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you could use brown sugar instead) to the pot, cover it, and let simmer until the squash is soft, about 30-40 mins. At the very end, add salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

While your squash is cooking, make your yogurt sauce. I used about 4 oz plain greek yogurt and mixed in 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp of a dill/onion/lemon/garlic/pepper seasoning mix called “it’s a dilly” (you could just use onion powder and some pepper), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice.

Assemble your bowl of squash vindaloo with yogurt on top and a little dill or parsley garnish, served with a warm toasty slice of bread or naan, or on top of rice. The verdict? It’s no Thistle Hill, but it was really delicious. And a complete hearty vegetarian meal (vegan if you skip the yogurt) for cool fall nights, packed with flavor (and vitamin A)!