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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Purple kale pesto

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This recipe is really just an excuse to make tomato hearts. Because TOMATO HEARTS! (See the easy peasy tutorial below.)

As always, scroll to the next photo to skip the life update coming at you: I've been with my mom in the hospital for the past few days, hence the long pause in posting. I'll spare you the details, but it was pretty brutal for my mom and will continue to be a rough course of treatment in the coming weeks and months. 

Seeing someone I love be so sick brings out competing urges in me. On the one hand, I want to be optimistic and wait to freak out until we see what happens in the next few weeks. On the other hand, I want to mentally prepare for the worst, or, as I usually do, talk about/worry about "the worst" as though somehow saying it out loud or thinking about it constantly will keep it at bay. Like the Scheherazade of cancer.

Anyway, as always, I can only control what I can control. I'll try my best to carry on and eat well and get veggies into my child and not let him watch all the television though I mostly want to curl into a ball and stare at the wall.

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This pesto is so vibrant and delicious. And purple feels on brand for Valentine's day, no?

Though I'm always in favor of shortcuts in recipes and against dirtying unnecessary dishes, you really must blanch the kale before making this sauce. But I sometimes go straight from the pot to the food processor (shaking off the excess water in the process) and skip the post-blanch ice bath that is supposed to stop things from overcooking. I find that the blending does the trick and a little excess water doesn't hurt the mixture either.

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This guy is Whole 30 compliant but adding in some Parmesan wouldn't hurt one bit. This is also a great way to get vegetables into your child since they're blended into the sauce. I find that the purple color is fascinating to small people and some of it comes out in the blanching water, turning it a gorgeous shade of lavender, which is also compelling to the wee ones. If nuts are a no-go for your kids' lunchboxes, try swapping in tiger nuts (they're not actually nuts) or pumpkin seeds for the cashews.

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Here's a quick tutorial for the tomatoes:

A couple of tips: Look for tomatoes that are longer than they are round and cut them on the diagonal, but toward the middle, leaving a little bulb on each end. When you've cut the tomato in half, flip the right side over so that the two fat parts and the skinny tips meet. Stick a toothpick or skewer through the middle like an arrow. Done.

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Purple kale pesto

6 oz purple kale, stalks removed (1 large bunch)
1/3 cup basil
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews or cashew pieces
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the kale and rip the leaves from the stalks into large chunks (this part is cathartic). Put in the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Give it a few stirs to ensure that all of the kale is submerged. Add directly to the blender or food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you've reached your desired consistency. If too thick, add more water or oil by the tsp to thin out.

Yield: 18 oz or about 3 cups (This recipe makes a good amount of pesto and was more than enough for a lb of pasta.)

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Guacamole skewers

One of the most frustrating things about feeding a toddler is that one day's favorite food is the next day's reject. M used to eat guacamole by the spoonful until it was suddenly dead to him. But he still eats the components with no problem. So, I made a skewer out of it and let him pull off pieces and helped him cut them up. And he ate it.

This deconstructed guac is also a way to showcase your seasonal produce. I like hiding sub-par tomatoes and onions in my favorite green gloop, but this way, the still-warm-from-the-sun tomatoes can go right from the farmer's market to a skewer to your table. Feel free to double the sauce recipe if you want some leftovers: This bright, tangy sauce is a perfect topper for chicken, dip for veggies, or sauce for eggs.

The only (and I do mean ONLY) tricky thing about these skewers is timing the avocado right. But isn't that always the way? Too ripe, and the avocado can fall right off of the stick, but using not-ripe-enough avocados is very obvious here because there's no camouflage of mushing and lime juice.

Guacamole skewers

For the sauce
1 bunch cilantro, well-soaked
4 Tbsp avocado oil or other neutral oil
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 generous pinches of salt and more to taste
1 large clove garlic

Roughly remove the stems from the leaves of cilantro (but a few stems are fine). Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime juice, as needed.

For the skewers
Red, orange, and yellow cherry tomatoes
1 large avocado (halved, quartered, and then chopped into fours to get 16 pieces)
2 limes (halved and quartered)
1 red onion

Yield: 16 skewers

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

Citrus salad

Citrus salad | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant salad is a dinner salad that actually fills you up. And what a celebration of citrus season! #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #salad #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #saladrecipes #shrimp #shrimprecipes

Day 13: This is the part of Whole 30 when I start feeling like a toddler. I look at an egg and think "I don't WANNA." I'm like M when he asks to "go out" 400 times with increasing urgency each time, and then REFUSES to put on his shoes or walk down the stairs. I'm not even craving anything forbidden, I'm just mad about this choice that I've made and the rules that I've chosen to follow...wait...huh? I'm doing this to myself?

I've been thinking about immediate versus delayed gratification a lot lately as I try to decode both my toddler's crazy behavior and my own. In the example above, M wants to go out for some vague, hypothetical fun that isn't yet happening, but his other immediate desires (to continue playing, to avoid unpleasant tasks like putting on shoes and walking down stairs) interfere. He wants the results without the work. This feels a lot like cleaning up your diet. I want to be a healthy person, but sometimes it feels like a gargantuan task to resist the wine or cheese or pizza or cookies or hell, even sushi, that might interfere with that goal (as I've conceptualized it for myself for the next 17 days. I DO think I can be a healthy person in the future with all of those currently off-limits foods included, but really, 30 days is not a long time.)

So, I'm adding to Tuesday's list of reasons why I'm doing Whole 30. If I can practice restraint in various areas of my life, hopefully I'll set a better example for M as he grows up. Adulting is about dealing with the bleh stuff on the road to the good stuff and if he sees me not checking my phone every time my text bings or indulging every craving that breezes through my brain, he'll be better at delaying gratification too. And maybe one day he'll put his freaking shoes on without a fight.

Citrus salad | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant salad is a dinner salad that actually fills you up. And what a celebration of citrus season! #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #salad #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #saladrecipes #shrimp #shrimprecipes

That said, this salad is pretty gratifying. We're trying to make this Whole 30 more vegetable heavy, which means leaning on salads for one or two dinners per week. This one is very filling (half an avocado, 2/3 of a pound of shrimp, and a boatload of fruits and vegetables will do that) so you won't have salad for dinner and the contents of your pantry for dessert.

 

Citrus salad | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant salad is a dinner salad that actually fills you up. And what a celebration of citrus season! #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #salad #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #saladrecipes #shrimp #shrimprecipes

Citrus salad

1.5 lb raw shrimp (tails on)
¾ tsp (heaping ½ tsp) cumin
¾ tsp (heaping ½ tsp) coriander
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tsp olive oil
1 bunch lacinto, Tuscan, or dinosaur kale, chopped and tough ribs removed
1 pomelo or grapefruit
1 cara cara or navel orange
2 blood oranges
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup roasted pepitas

For the meyer lemon vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 ½ meyer lemons or 1 regular lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over a medium flame. Add shrimp and sprinkle with spices. Stir to distribute. Cook until shrimp are uniformly pink and cooked through.

If the pepitas aren’t already roasted (I have yet to find Whole 30 compliant roasted pepitas, so we do our own), preheat your oven or toaster to 350 and roast the seeds until just beginning to smell nutty and to brown, about 5 minutes, but keep an eye out to prevent burning.

Wash the kale, remove the tough center rib, and chop. We bought this tool, which makes the job SO MUCH EASIER. Add to your serving bowl and set aside. Thinly slice the red onion, fennel, and avocado. Set aside. Remove the skin from your citrus fruits by cutting a slice from the top and bottom and then running your knife along the sides from cut to cut, removing the skin in pieces. Either slice or section the fruit by cutting along the thin inner membrane to remove each piece (slicing is easiest). Set aside.

Make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients and shaking well to combine. Add the vinaigrette to the kale and toss. Add your shrimp, citrus fruits, avocado, fennel, and red onion in whatever presentation you like. Toss (or leave the components separate if serving this to guests or you just want to be fancy) and sprinkle pepitas over the top.

Yield: Serves 2 adults and one toddler as a main dish, 4-5 adults as a side*

*M doesn’t know what to do with raw kale, so he ate shrimp and avocado with kale, onions, and cheddar cheese in a tortilla. I sautéed the kale and onions a little bit before popping them into a tortilla and melting the cheese for a quesadilla.

Citrus salad | Me & The Moose. This Whole 30-compliant salad is a dinner salad that actually fills you up. And what a celebration of citrus season! #meandthemoose #whole30 #whole30recipes #salad #easydinner #quickdinner #dinnerrecipes #saladrecipes #shrimp #shrimprecipes