Fried green tomatoes

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If your child loves french fries and tomatoes, then they will love fried green tomatoes. Or, they will reject them out of hand because they're mercurial toddlers like mine. One day, M will love these. I'm sure of it.

I just dropped M off for his first day of a new school year. He was only off for a week between "grades" but I felt so nervous this morning! M had a tough time adjusting to his last classroom and now he has new grownups, a new space, and some new kids to contend with. Ugh. I don't like change. That must be where M gets it.

We also have a nut allergy in the classroom this year, so I'll be more mindful of nut-free recipes for lunches and snacks.

ALSO also, after just a week off from packing lunches, I forgot what a huge drag it is. My sympathies go out to those of you getting back to it after an ENTIRE summer off. Strength to you, fellow lunch-packers.

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The keys to good fried green tomatoes, to me, are soaking overnight in buttermilk, and cooking with HOT oil. I've gotten equally delicious and crunchy results from using a little bit of oil and a lot of oil, but the heat seemed like the common denominator.

I also experimented a lot with corn flour and different grinds of cornmeal. I initially liked corn flour the best, but it's very easy to get too much flour, which doesn't cook evenly. (Picture #2 was taken BEFORE I knocked off the excess.) Ultimately, my favorite was straight-up, finely ground cornmeal.

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Fried green tomatoes

3-4 large green tomatoes, sliced in ¼-inch thick slices
1-2 cups buttermilk, full or low-fat (enough to cover the tomato slices)
1 tsp salt, divided
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
½ tsp paprika
Ground pepper
¼ cup avocado oil
Course sea salt

Slice the tomatoes and discard the end pieces. Place the tomatoes in a container and cover them with buttermilk. Add ½ tsp salt, cover, and shake. Refrigerate for at least a few hours and up to 1 day.

Combine the corn meal, salt, paprika, and pepper in a large container. Set aside. Heat one to two tablespoons of avocado oil at a time until very hot.

Working one at a time, shake off excess buttermilk and immediately place the tomato slice in the cornmeal mixture. Cover both sides well, but shake off the excess cornmeal as well.

When the oil is hot (when you add anything to the oil, it immediately starts bubbling), add the tomatoes (as many as will fit in your pan, but don’t crowd them; work in batches), and fry for 3 minutes. Check for brownness and flip when golden. When second side reaches golden brown, remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Between batches of tomatoes, pour out any leftover oil and carefully wipe off any cornmeal left in the pan. Heat two more tablespoons of avocado oil and repeat the cooking process with remaining tomatoes.

Yield: 12-16 tomato slices

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Zucchini and pea mac and cheese

Zucchini and pea mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. Stovetop mac and cheese is an easy and fast dinner that is also the perfect way to add some veggies into your toddler’s diet. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #zucchini #peas #cheese #pasta

We've watched a lot of tennis this summer between Wimbledon, the Olympics, and now the US Open, so I thought it was about time to add this recipe for my favorite stove top mac and cheese with racquet pasta and little pea and zucchini "tennis balls." I prefer stove top to the baked variety because a) it saves a step; and b) at least when I make it, it's creamier. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Anyway, this one is easy to customize and you toss the veggies into the pasta water for the last few minutes of cooking to save even more work.

 

Zucchini and pea mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. Simple ingredients come together for a delicious meal without the preservatives and chemicals of the boxed varieties. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #zucchini #peas #cheese #pasta

Grand Slam Mac and Cheese

8 oz Pasta
5-6 mini or 1 medium zucchini
1 cup peas
2 heaping cups cheese (mixture of cheddar, parmesan, muenster, etc)
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper

Bring water to a boil. In a separate pan, melt butter over a medium-low flame. Add flour, stirring constantly to break up lumps. When butter and flour are bubbling, turn flame all the way down and continue stirring until the mixture has turned a slightly darker shade of brown (bubbles go from large to small and the color is more of a wheat/blond than white/cream). Add milk and stir until mixture thickens (texture goes from milk to cream to buttermilk). Stir in the nutmeg and mustard powder. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Should make about 1.25 cups of cheese sauce.

Cook pasta according to package directions. When the pasta reaches al dente (they usually give a cooking time for al dente and one for more well done), add the chopped zucchini and peas. Let cook for another 3 minutes until the zucchini loses its bite and the peas are warmed through. 

When done, drain the pasta and return to the hot pan. Immediately add the cheese sauce and stir. Check seasonings.

Zucchini and pea mac and cheese | Me & The Moose. Racquets are a fun shape and help make new veggies more relatable for littles. #meandthemoose #macandcheese #zucchini #peas #cheese #pasta

Candy sushi!

Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. Rice krispy treats, candy, fruit rollups, and sanding sugar are all you need for a sweet surprise. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

You will certainly find more professional-looking candy sushi out there, but who cares?! I was pretty pleased with how easily this came together. I made it for a 1st birthday pool party because pool party=swimming=fish=sushi? It made sense to me. Also, I was looking for something fun and egg-free (just make sure to check your labels to ensure that the gummy stuff is clear of eggs).

Unfortunately, I had grand plans for a time-lapse video to help with the how-to, but I CAN'T KEEP CANDY IN MY HOUSE. Lesson learned. I took photos of the ingredients and immediately ate them.

Candy sushi is made for summer birthdays. Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

The difficulty of self-control around candy notwithstanding, I highly recommend making these for your next kids' party. It's easy, cheap, and a serious show stopper.

How to turn candy sharks into candy sushi | Me & The Moose. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

You'll need:

3 Tbsp butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
10 oz large marshmallows or 4 cups mini marshmallows

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the marshmallows and melt, stirring frequently. When the marshmallows have mostly lost their shape, add Rice Krispies and stir to coat. Let cool until the mixture can be handled.


3-4 Twizzlers or Red Vines per "roll"
4 Red Mike 'n Ikes per "hand roll"
1 Large Swedish Fish per piece
1 Gummy Sharks per piece
Orange sanding sugar
Joray green apple fruit rolls

Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. Rice krispy treats, candy, fruit rollups, and sanding sugar are all you need for a sweet surprise. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

Tools:

Pizza cutter
Water
Coconut oil spray
Plastic wrap

To assemble:

For the rolls: Lay a square of plastic wrap on a clean countertop and spray with coconut oil. Wet your hands and place a handful of the rice krispy/marshmallow/butter mixture on the plastic, patting it down into a thin layer. Unwrap and place a fruit roll onto the cereal layer (reverse these steps for an inside-out roll). Lay three Twizzlers or Red Vines in the middle and using the plastic wrap and wet hands, make a roll out of the three layers, really squishing the ingredients together. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into five pieces, reshaping as needed. For the "inside out" pieces, roll the cut pieces in 2-3 Tbsp of orange sanding sugar.

Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. Rice krispy treats, candy, fruit rollups, and sanding sugar are all you need for a sweet surprise. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

For the hand rolls: Lay a square of plastic wrap on a clean countertop and spray with coconut oil. Unwrap and place a fruit roll on the plastic. With wet hands, shape a large handful of the cereal mixture into a log and place in the middle of the fruit roll (these particular fruit roll-ups are round when unrolled, which is easier than the square variety). Wrap the fruit roll over the log of cereal mixture and side of fruit roll together with some water. Cut the entire thing in half shape with wet hands, as needed. Add red Mike n' Ikes.

For the pieces: Unroll a fruit roll and cut into 1/2 inch strips with the pizza cutter. With wet hands, roll a small handful cereal mixture into a ball and squish into more of a rectangle. Wrap a strip of fruit roll around the whole Swedish fish/cereal combo and secure the ends of the fruit roll strip with a few drops of water.

Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. Rice krispy treats, candy, fruit rollups, and sanding sugar are all you need for a sweet surprise. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

For the roe pieces: Unroll a fruit roll and cut into slightly thicker strips with the pizza cutter. With wet hands, roll a small handful cereal mixture into a ball and squish into more of a rectangle. Wrap a strip of fruit roll around the outside of the cereal mixture and secure the ends of the strip with a few drips of water. Let dry for a few minutes. Pick up the entire piece and dip the top into 2-3 Tbsp of orange sanding sugar.

Candy sushi | Me & The Moose. Rice krispy treats, candy, fruit rollups, and sanding sugar are all you need for a sweet surprise. #meandthemoose #candysushi #sweetsushi

For the "sashimi": Using your sharpest knife, slice one of the gummy sharks into 5-6 pieces. Place on top of a log of the cereal mixture.

And voila! Candy sushi. I can't wait to do this with M when he gets older.

For more candy sushi inspiration: Super professional candy sushi / Candy sushi birthday party / Molded fish candy sushi

Rainbow vegetable quiche

Rainbow vegetable quiche | Me & The Moose. This quiche is a tasty and pretty way to get your toddlers to eat veggies. It also cubes easily for a finger food. #meandthemoose #quiche #vegetarian #vegancrust #brunch

Isn't she puuuurty? This dish combines a lot of M's favorite foods: Eggs, cheese, milk, and bread (or at least, something bread-adjacent). Also, quiches are basically fancy casseroles with all of the benefits (big-batch; make ahead and reheat; easily customized based on preferences; etc), but are less messy than some of the saucier casseroles and are cube-able, which means that quiche = toddler finger food. This particular quiche is so pretty that I would happily feed it to a crowd. It's also so tasty that I would happily eat it all by myself (which I pretty much did because M went on a hunger strike after I made it).

Rainbow vegetable quiche | Me & The Moose. This quiche is a tasty and pretty way to get your toddlers to eat veggies. It also cubes easily for a finger food. #meandthemoose #quiche #vegetarian #vegancrust #brunch

I used a pre-made crust because I'm lazy. I like the Whole Foods 365 frozen vegan crust. I bought it by accident once and it was quite flaky and delicious, so I've now purposely bought it a few times. The bottom crust tends to stay a little raw on my quiches (not grossly raw, but not fully cooked either) and with a vegan crust, I don't have to worry so much if something is a bit underdone. 

Rainbow vegetable quiche | Me & The Moose. This quiche is a tasty and pretty way to get your toddlers to eat veggies. It also cubes easily for a finger food. #meandthemoose #quiche #vegetarian #vegancrust #brunch

I also recommend pre-cooking the veggies a little bit, but this step isn't crucial. I just like predictability and pre-cooking means that all of the veggies will be evenly cooked. Tossing them in raw is more of a gamble, though after 45+ minutes of cooking, they'll probably be fully cooked. Probably.

Rainbow vegetable quiche | Me & The Moose. This quiche is a tasty and pretty way to get your toddlers to eat veggies. It also cubes easily for a finger food. #meandthemoose #quiche #vegetarian #vegancrust #brunch
Rainbow vegetable quiche | Me & The Moose. This quiche is a tasty and pretty way to get your toddlers to eat veggies. It also cubes easily for a finger food. #meandthemoose #quiche #vegetarian #vegancrust #brunch

I'm back on a temporary Whole 30 (more like a Whole 15) as I post this, and man do I feel like eating cheese and wheat.

Rainbow Veggie Quiche

1 large tomato
½ large sweet potato
½ large yellow squash
2 handfuls spinach
3 small purple potatoes
olive oil
4 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup cheddar cheese
1 9” pre-made pie crust (or your favorite homemade crust in a 9-inch pie plate)

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, and yellow squash into ¼ slices. You can use a mandolin or just eyeball it. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes become pliable.

In the meantime, combine 4 eggs and milk and whisk lightly. Grate the cheese and add ½ cup to the egg/milk mixture, reserving ¼ cup. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and put in the fridge.

Next, using a fork, make holes all over your pie crust.  Once the veggies are done, turn the oven down to 375 and cook the empty pie crust for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and begin assembly. I recommend putting a sheet pan beneath your crust to catch any spillover. Starting with the purple potatoes, spread a single layer over the bottom of the crust (pie crust should peek through). Then, add two handfuls of spinach. Pour about 1/3 of the milk/cheese/egg mixture over these layers and tap the quiche once to remove air bubbles. Then, add the yellow squash layer and the sweet potato layer. Pour over the other 1/3 of the milk/cheese/egg mixture. Tap once to remove air bubbles. By this point, the liquid should be even with the sweet potato layer and everything should be at about the rim of the pie crust. If not, add more liquid and veggies. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, uncovered. After 30 minutes, remove the quiche and add the tomato layer. Pour ¼ cup of liquid over the tomatoes and top with the remaining cheese. Put back into the oven for 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set. You should be able to rotate the entire thing without much movement from the contents. If the quiche is not set after 45 minutes, but the cheese on top is browning, cover with foil and check after another 10 minutes.

Let cool before serving.