Chimichurri meatballs

I'm writing this from a Starbucks while M is at his first day of drop-off camp. Drop off. As in, I bring him to camp and then leave and go live my life for two hours while he lives his. WWWWHHHAAAATTTT?????? I mean, this is literally the goal while raising kids: You want them to be able to function without you and eat and breathe and play and learn and share and manage their emotions, but oh my god, how can he be able to function without me already?

But I simultaneously feel like this is totally normal. He's such an independent kid that I know he'll be okay without me. And thinking of him going to his own place to do his own thing reminds me that I, too, am a separate person who exists outside of my role as a mother.

If I was a smart person, I would be posting today about nut-free lunch packing because that's one challenge we're encountering for the first time. Buuuut, I'm not. Instead, I'm posting about a good way to get M to eat protein: Fill it with the strong flavors of garlic, lime, and cilantro. Actually, this is a good way to get anyone to eat protein.

A few notes about this recipe: I tried to make this one into a Whole 30/Paleo recipe by using almond meal in place of flour, but the texture never felt totally right. They were delicious, but a little softer than I wanted. However, if I were to do another Whole 30, I would definitely make these with almond meal and just deal with it because the flavor is great. I used homemade bread crumbs here because we had some stale whole grain bread, but store bought would work just fine. I made these meatballs huge because I wanted them to be sliders and a good, hearty meal, but one could absolutely make them smaller. I served them with more chimichurri on the top and bottom and a whole wheat slider bun. These would also be great over some zucchini noodles or with roasted veggies like fennel and potatoes.

Chimichurri meatballs

1.5 lb ground beef, turkey, or bison
½ cup chimichurri
1½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (3 oz bread)
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Using your hands or a large spoon, form into palm-sized balls (about the size of a lacrosse ball). Bake in any oven-safe pan, but preferably a casserole or pie dish with higher sides to keep the balls in place, for about 40-45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160.

Yield: 9 large meatballs

Blueberry and beet popsicles

Whooooeeeey, what a week. I completely missed popsicle week last week, interestingly, because I was busy making popsicles for my very sick child. Have any of you dealt with Coxsackie? I had never heard of it before having children, but apparently it's a virus that's been around forever and we've all had it.

Also, it's terrible. Thanks to a really sore throat and a high fever, M basically ate nothing for two days, so we tried lots of different frozen treats. Aside from these blueberry and beet-sicles, we made carrot, apple, and coconut treats using carrot juice, apple juice, and coconut milk; Orange coconut creamsicles using orange juice and coconut milk; and a roasted mango concoction that I'm still working on. I'll be honest, the ones with vegetables didn't go over as well while M was sick, but when he's healthy, he gobbles them up. 

Can I confess something? I don't really like beets. I also HATE cooking them myself, though everyone claims that it's sooooo easy. Whelp, I bought the beets in this photo because they were cheap and pretty at the farmer's market, but I fully used the organic pre-cooked ones you can buy at the grocery store that are vacuum sealed in plastic. I refuse to ruin my cutting board for a vegetable I don't even like.

However, I DO like beets when they're mixed with other things; chocolate, goat cheese, blueberries, etc.

This puree is great on its own or when mixed with yogurt, cooked grains, or pureed proteins for more advanced eaters. I personally love eating these as popsicles and would one day like to spike them with some sort of alcohol. For M, I mixed the blueberry/beet puree with a yogurt, almond butter, and honey combo that cut the fruit and veggies with something a little creamier. I also encourage you to make popsicles using just the yogurt mixture because they. are. great. Even my sick,-as-a-dog child ate the frozen yogurt. 

A couple of notes: If you have the temerity to cook the beets yourself, here's how. Otherwise, do what I do and use the precooked ones. Be sure to roast the blueberries (don't skip this step!) because raw ones in frozen treats don't have a strong flavor. Does anyone else notice that frozen raw fruit tastes blander? Anyway, I also recommend eating these only while wearing dark colors and/or when you can immediately dunk your child in water to clean up because they're a little messy. But isn't that half the fun of a popsicle?

Beet and blueberry puree and popsicles  

For the puree:
1.5 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 pint, minus whatever is filched by your toddler)
¾ cup chopped beets (about 3 very small)
¼ tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375. Spread the blueberries on a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, until the berries are soft and fragrant, but haven't burst. Place the blueberries and beets in the blender, add the cinnamon, and puree until you've reached your desired consistency. 

Yield: 1.5 cups or 12 oz of puree

For the pops:
1 cup full fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp almond butter (preferably salted)

Fill the popsicle molds 1/2 way with the blueberry and beet mixture and freeze for at least 30 minutes or until the mixture begins to set. Fill the rest of the molds with the yogurt mixture and freeze solid, at least 5-6 hours.

Yield: 4 large ice pops



Banana bread doughnuts

I've been thinking a lot about feelings lately as M, in typical toddler fashion, has all of the feelings, all of the time. Well, not all of the time. But while it makes life harder for me when he has A DAY, I want him to know that feelings are fine and that "managing" them doesn't mean suppressing them. That reminder is for me more than him because he wants to fly his feelings flag high. Unfortunately, my first instinct is to talk him out of it in an effort to make him "feel better," but which is probably more like "feel nothing negative."

I've read a few articles lately about parenting boys like this one, which was a good reminder of things I already think about and do (and wrote about here). Most writings about raising feminist sons (or just sons who aren't jerks) mention encouraging their emotional vocabulary, but don't give a lot of specific data or instructions. However, this article gives both and made me think about how I talk with M about everything, not just his feelings.

 Tiny tooth marks in the doughnut on the bottom right corner.

Tiny tooth marks in the doughnut on the bottom right corner.

Since reading this article, I've tried to be more curious with M, particularly when we're cooking together. He takes his little step stool and stands next to me at our (tiny) counter. I give him jobs and we make a huge mess and in the mean time, I have the opportunity to ask him a million questions about what he's doing, choices he's making, and what he feels while we work on this whole project. Baking is also a great way to teach patience because we can't eat the finished product right away.

M made (and tasted) every batch of these banana bread donuts with me. He loved them all, but I liked my final batch with a little more coconut sugar and a second egg, the best. This is truly a one bowl recipe: We mixed the wet ingredients first and added the dry ingredients directly to the wet batter and they've turned out really well each time (with minimal dish doing at the end). This recipe could easily be made as mini muffins, regular muffins, or a loaf of banana bread. But I quite like them as doughnuts because they bake very evenly and very quickly.

Banana bread donuts

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

3 medium bananas, smashed
¾ cup coconut sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup full fat plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400. Smash the bananas in a large bowl and thoroughly mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the same bowl containing the wet mixture and mix until just combined and no dry flour can be seen. Spoon the batter into greased dougnut pan and bake for 12-13 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pushed. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to let cool completely.

Yield: 14-16 doughnuts

Falafel waffles

Falafel waffles, guys. They're really really good. Also, hearing a 2 year old say "Falafel waffle" is hysterical. M studies at the Leslie Knope Institute of Waffle Appreciation, so I try to waffle things whenever possible. These are particularly successful. I usually feel pretty 'meh' toward baked falafel because they tend to be, in my opinion, mealy, dry, and little hard to swallow. Appetizing, eh? No so with these guys! I adapted a terrific recipe from Epicurious but added more spices, tahini to help bind and moisten the batter, and chunks of haloumi cheese.

Let's talk about haloumi. I love this cheese so so much. BUT, I have to add the caveat that it's rubbery when cold. Like, feels terrible on your teeth and makes a horrible sound when chewed, rubbery. But, once heated, this cheese is divine. Melted, roasted, grilled, etc, it's great. Grilled is my favorite because it becomes more oozy and gooey, but doesn't seem to fully melt. Anyway, this cheese is salty and a little briny, but very mild and in the waffles creates pockets of salty goodness.

The batter here is not your typical waffle batter and when I first made these, I thought for sure that they'd be a flop. Once combined, these ingredients make sort of a grainy, sandy, thick-ish mixture that bakes into a totally normal waffle. A couple more notes: I only use dried chickpeas that I've soaked overnight in these. I think that the canned ones fall apart too easily. I also used garbanzo flour to make these gluten-free, but you can use any type of flour you have on hand. Be sure to spray your waffle maker with some olive oil spray between each batch as these guys can stick.

Falafel Waffles

Roughly adapted from Cookie + Kate

2 cups chick peas
1.5 Tbsp (just grab a handful) fresh cilantro
1.5 Tbsp (ditto above) fresh parsley
½ large onion
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp coriander
2 Tbsp tahini
6 Tbsp garbanzo flour
8 oz haloumi cheese (1 medium-sized block)

Place all of the ingredients up to the cheese into a food processor and pulse until well combined and looking like medium grains of sand. Chunk up the cheese with your hands and mix into the falafel batter. Form into palm-sized balls (about 1/3 cup each) and cook in a well-greased waffle maker according to the appliance’s directions.

Yield: 12 small waffles

Shrimp rolls

How is it already mid-June? Things are changing so fast around here that the spring slipped away and now it's almost summer (though spring is doing its best summer impersonation as I sit outside writing this in 93 degree heat). We're also at the two-month mark in our countdown to leaving's finally happening: We're moving to the burbs. I've lived here for 15 years, so it feels weird and exciting to live somewhere else. And to have a HOUSE! What are we ever going to do with more than three rooms?

We're heading north to a great town in Connecticut and I'm excited to be a New Englander! In that spirit, here are some shrimp rolls that we make a lot during the summer. If you use pre-cooked shrimp, this is a no-cook dinner that screams summer at the beach (even sans beach). The fresh tarragon is pretty key to this concoction, but if you don't have any I would use fresh basil instead of subbing in dried tarragon.

Shrimp rolls

Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 lb raw shrimp (if using cooked shrimp, skip the butter)
2 Tbsp butter (+1 tsp for frying tarragon, if desired)
½ cup chopped celery (2 large stalks, minced)
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped (with a few leaves left over for frying at the end)
½ cup mayonnaise
1.5 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
½ tsp old bay seasoning
large pinch salt
4 large brioche or potato hotdog buns

In a large skillet, melt the butter over a medium flame. Cook the shrimp until done throughout. Let cool. Chop the shrimp, celery, and tarragon and combine with the mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, old bay, and salt. Mix thoroughly. If needed, mix in more mayonnaise (start with 1 Tbsp and add until you've reached your desired consistency). Toast your hotdog buns and fill with shrimp mixture. Melt another tsp of butter and fry some whole tarragon leaves and top the shrimp rolls with a few leaves and some more old bay seasoning. Serve immediately.      

Yield: 4 large rolls with about 1 cup shrimp mixture in each roll