Purple carrot soup with za'atar

Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

Is purple my new favorite color? I don’t know. Maybe. I seem to be drawn to purple foods lately. Maybe they feel kind of witch-y and seasonal. And that’s primarily what I aim for in my cooking.

Anyway, I find purple carrots endlessly intriguing and therefore, have used them in this soup. Unfortunately, the end product doesn't stay purple, so if your kiddo might be put off by the initial color, rest easy. This soup is also delicious made with orange carrots.

Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan
Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

And added bonus: carrots are a great base for introducing new flavors to your kiddos. Carrots are familiar, mildly sweet, and almost entirely inoffensive, so they’re not intimidating when you mix in some za’atar and tahini, two things that, on their own, might prove too much for a developing palate.

Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

I like swirling it with yogurt and sprinkling on some za’atar, which is a spice that should earn a spot in your repertoire.

If za’atar intimidates you, take heart. I was also a bit hesitant at first, but it’s a simple mixture of thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac, which is a common middle eastern spice that has a bright, citrusy flavor. I feel like it’s the cumin of the middle east.

This soup is also a good way to introduce some new spices and flavors while incorporating an old favorite. M even requested a bowl of this with his dinner the other night, so I, obviously, felt extremely smug.

Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is so easy to make and a great way to introduce new flavors. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan

Purple carrot soup with za’atar

2 Tbsp olive oil, butter, or ghee
1 medium onion, minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp coriander
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 ¼ lb carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces
4 cups low sodium stock (vegetable or chicken)
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
Za’atar

Heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Add the spices and ½ tsp of salt and cook for one more minute, until fragrant.

Add the carrots and cook for one or two minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender.

Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the tahini, lemon juice, and the other ½ tsp of salt.

Yield: 6½ cups or about 52 oz


Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is a warm, hearty, and healthy lunch or light dinner. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan
Purple carrot soup with za’atar | Me & The Moose. This carrot soup is an easy way to add interest to your kids’ lunchboxes while serving up some veggies and introducing new flavors. #meandthemoose #carrotsoup #purplecarrots #za’atar #glutenfree #vegan




Sheet pan dinner: Sausage and purple cabbage

Sheet pan dinners are the easiest way to get dinner on (and off) the table. Purple cabbage, potatoes, and chicken or turkey sausage combine for a universally appealing dinner. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

Is there anything better than October? Everyone has settled into new routines, the weather is (generally) cooler, the leaf peeping and apple picking are in full swing, and it’s finally acceptable to buy enormous bags of candy and maintain the fiction that they’ll last until October 30th.

KIDDING! I would never pretend that that candy is making it to the end of the month.

Thick cuts of cabbage lead to crispy edges and softer interiors. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest
Purple cabbage is magical. Look at that purple! #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

But really, we are trying to maintain a modicum of healthy eating now that we’re super busy again with school and activities and the faster pace of non-summer months. That’s where sheet pan dinners like this one come in handy.

Dijonnaise is a simple combo of dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and magic. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest
Sheet pan dinners are the best and easiest way to get dinner on the table and cleanup done quickly. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #sausage #potatoes #Oktoberfest

The combination of sausage, cabbage, and potatoes with a mustard-y sauce feels very Oktoberfest, which is obviously on-brand for this month.

Also, I haven’t yet found a vegetable that wasn’t made more delicious by roasting and purple cabbage and potatoes may be among my favorites. Find the smallest potatoes you can, or halve anything larger then a golf ball.

Roasting at high heat with plenty of olive oil and salt leads to a delicious, quick dinner. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #potatoes #sausage #Oktoberfest

If you leave off any bread on the side and check your labels for the sausage, this dish is also gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole 30 compliant.

A quick note about the sausage here: We always pre-cooked sausage. The timing gets tricky when starting with raw sausage and the chicken/turkey varieties are usually pre-cooked anyway.

SPD: German red cabbage, potatoes, and sausage

1/2 small head red cabbage, ¾ inch thick slices
1 lb small potatoes
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 lb pre-cooked turkey or chicken sausage (we use Wellshire Farms turkey kielbasa)

Dijonnaise

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

 

Heat oven to 425.

Thickly slice the cabbage into ¾ inch thick steaks. Spread out on your baking sheet along with the small potatoes. Brush or spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 20 minutes or until the cabbage starts to singe in the sides.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and tuck the sausage in with the potatoes and cabbage. I have cooked the sausage from frozen and when already defrosted, and it takes about the same amount of time.

If desired, smash the potatoes slightly with the bottom of a mug or measuring cup and spray or brush on more olive oil for a crispier, crunchier potato.

Return to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes or until the centers of the cabbage steaks are fork tender.

Yield: dinner for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children (with possibly some leftovers depending on how much your kids actually eat.)

Sheet pan dinners are the fastest, easiest way to get dinner on the table and clean up done quickly. #meandthemoose #sheetpandinner #purplecabbage #sausage #potatoes #Oktoberfest

Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl

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So, this is technically a recipe for a banh mi bowl, but the components can be customized in zillions of ways. The chicken meatballs can go in any direction, as can the cauliflower rice.

But first, banh mi. It's technically a Vietnamese sandwich with pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumbers, cilantro, a spicy mayonnaise, some sort of pate or liverwurst, and another cooked meat. Availability of great Banh mi is the one thing I miss about living in Brooklyn where we used to order these sandwiches at least once a week. That's also possibly why I gained a lot of weight when we lived there.

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Now when a craving strikes, I like to incorporate banh mi flavors in a cauliflower rice bowl. 

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I have mixed feelings about carb and starch substitutes. Unless whatever you're eating with the cauliflower rice is really flavorful, I don't think it passes for regular rice. However, while not really rice, I love this cauliflower on its own merits. It's really simple: sauteed onions, garlic, and salt are all you need. M even eats it and he is a traditional rice devotee.

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Now, the meatballs. I have experimented A LOT with chicken meatballs. As a perfectionist, I really really want them to be round. I've gone down the rabbit hole of meatball-making tips and so far, none of them have been entirely successful. I've tried adding more and less filler, more and less liquid, more and less fat, cooking directly in a sauce, roasting, sauteing, and chilling in various ways. The most successful tip I can offer from my trials and tribulations is that making them very very small is the key to quick cooking and maintaining a round shape. So if you care about roundness in your meatballs, use 1 teaspoon or less per ball.

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A couple of other notes:
- I've found that cheese is a better agent for adding moisture than milk because it doesn't make the mixture too slack. But while there is cheese in these balls, they don't taste cheesy at all, which makes the flavor more adaptable.
- I encourage you not to overcook these. Since there isn't a lot of fat or filler in these balls, they can dry out if left on the heat for too long. Using a meat thermometer is your best bet for cooking things fully, but not overdoing it.
-Speaking of cooking, I equally like roasting and sauteing these balls. I don't find that it makes a difference in the taste, texture, or shape of the final product. However, it's currently summer here on the east coast of the USA and hot as hell, so I don't always have it in me to turn on the oven. Either cooking method is great, so do what feels best (and least sweaty) for you.

 

Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl 

Chicken meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
¾ cup panko
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp full-fat ricotta (optional, as it may make the meatballs flatten slightly, but adds more moisture)
1 egg
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

If roasting, preheat the oven to 425.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix minimally with a spoon, spatula, or your hands, just until the ingredients are incorporated.

If sautéing the meatballs, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and heat over a medium-low flame. 

Using wet hands, scoop out between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture and roll into a ball. Add to a baking dish or the hot pan.   

If sauteing: Over medium-high flame, brown on one side and then turn the meatballs over to brown on the other side (about 2-4 minutes per side, depending on the size of your meatballs). Turn the flame to low and cover the pan. Cook until a thermometer inserted reaches 165 degrees or the meatballs are firm when you press on them and no pink remains in the middle, about 4-8 more minutes, depending on size.

If roasting: Cook for 8-10 minutes (again, the larger your meatballs, the longer they’ll need to cook) and check the meatballs (again, they’re done when the internal temperature reaches 165 or the balls are firm and no pink remains in the center).

Yield: 54 mini meatballs (1 tsp) or 24 small meatballs (1 Tbsp)

 

Cauliflower rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ small onion, chopped (a heaping ½ cup)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb cauliflower rice (either pre-riced or use a 1 lb [usually a small] head of cauliflower and chop in a food processor)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the cauliflower rice and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to low, cover, and cook for 13-15 minutes or until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I like a little bit of crunch to the rice, so I prefer to cook for slightly less time.

Yield: 4 cups

 

Pickled carrots and daikon radish
Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook
1 medium daikon (about 1 lb)
3 large carrots (about 1 lb)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup warm water

Chop your vegetables into thin sticks and add to a large container.

In a separate large liquid measuring cup, add the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Mix with a whisk and microwave on high for 30 seconds and whisk again. Repeat as needed, microwaving for 10-15 seconds at a time, to dissolve the sugar.

Pour over the chopped vegetables and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one month.


For the rice bowls:
Meatballs (see recipe)
Cauliflower rice (see recipe)
Pickled vegetables (see recipe)
Fresh cilantro, torn from the bunch
Cucumber, sliced
Scallions, sliced
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Mayonnaise (optional)

To assemble the bowl, use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. We usually get about two adult-sized portions and one kid-sized portion from the cauliflower rice with meatballs and pickles left over. If your family is larger, increase the rice as needed and adjust cooking times. Your onions and garlic may need another minute each and the overall cooking time for the cauliflower may be slightly longer as well (but test often after the above instructed 15 minutes to avoid overcooking).

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Carrot, ginger, and tahini dressing

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Salad! Do your kids eat it? M will inexplicably stuff his face with raw kale sometimes and then turn around and gag on anything leafy or green. The dressing is a factor. Also, if he gets to mix the salad, he is much more likely to eat it. I recommend putting your salad bowl on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any greens that escape (read: all of the greens) and letting the little ones have a go.

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Since M is currently SO PASSIONATE about sushi, we've eaten at A LOT of Japanese restaurants lately. Sometimes that ubiquitous carrot and ginger dressing is a revelation, but more often, it's watery or too acidic. This version is neither of those things. There's a fair amount of liquid and acid in this recipe, but the load of carrots and the little bit of tahini mellows the vinegar just enough and adds a touch of creaminess.

I won't lie: It's a little chunkier than your average salad dressing, but it coats the lettuce beautifully and instead of just being oil, you're sneaking in some extra goodness in what is essentially a condiment. So if your toddler deigns to eat a mouthful, they're eating EVEN MORE VEGETABLES.

Also, this dressing is sweet and tangy, but happens to be free of gluten, dairy, and sugar. And it lasts FOREVER. Pretty sure I'm still eating a batch that I made three weeks ago. But, you know, use your judgment.

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Creamy carrot and ginger tahini dressing

¼ apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp tahini
2 extra large carrots or 4 medium/small carrots
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ white onion
1 large clove garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup olive or avocado oil
salt
pepper

Place all ingredients (except the oil) in a blender or food processor. Start blending and slowly pour in the olive oil while the machine is running. Blend until you've reached your desired consistency. If the mixture feels too watery, add another tablespoon of tahini. If it feels too thick, add one tablespoon of water and blend.

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Instant pot chicken mole

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That's right. Mole. In an instant pot.

Now, hear me out. I don't claim that this mole is in ANY WAY authentic, but what is an authentic mole anyway? It seems to me that there are characteristics that qualify a sauce as mole, but that there is no one recipe to rule them all.

Now, I also realize that this dish is usually made with a huge list of spices and chiles, most of which you have to toast or hydrate, and that traditionally, these spices are ground by hand with a mortar and pestle.

But, WHO HAS THAT KIND OF TIME? Surely not parents of toddlers. 

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Instead, you can toss everything into an instant pot and have a really complex dinner on the table in about an hour (with most of that time being hands off).

The most time consuming part of the process here is reducing the sauce after the chicken has been pressure cooked. You'll want to saute the liquid until it reduces by about half and when you scrape the bottom of the pot, the sauce doesn't re-cover the metal right away. That will be a good indication that the sauce is thick enough.

The sauce before thickening.

The sauce before thickening.

The sauce after being reduced. See how the sauce doesn't cover the metal right away?

The sauce after being reduced. See how the sauce doesn't cover the metal right away?

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This dish is great over white rice, brown rice, cauliflower rice, in a taco, in a lettuce cup: you get the picture. The ingredients all comply with Whole 30, which means it's gluten, dairy, and refined-sugar free. You can also swap in seed butter for the almond butter if you need to avoid nuts.

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Instant pot chicken mole

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped tomatoes in liquid
1 Tbsp chili powder
1.5 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
½ red onion, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp chipotle in adobo
¼ cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp almond butter
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place all of the sauce ingredients in your instant pot and whisk to combine. Add the chicken breasts and scrunch them around to make sure that there is liquid surrounding the pieces.

Close the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release the steam manually and remove the chicken. Check the doneness of the chicken with a thermometer (it should read at least 165).

Turn the Instant pot off and then back on with the sauté function on medium. Saute until the remaining liquid has reduced by half and thickened significantly, about 20 minutes (you should be able to scrape the bottom of the pot and see the metal for a second before the sauce covers over it). Let cool slightly.

Add the liquid to a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve the chicken with 1/4 of the sauce and any other garnishes and accessories that you want.

Yield: 4 grown-up servings

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