Bytes of Love

Working mommy. Startup daddy. Rascal toddlers.

Category: Dinners (Page 1 of 5)

Four Weekday Recipes You Can Actually Make

Well, when you guys told me that two-small-children, two-careers life is crazy, you weren’t kidding. If you’re like us, the hours of 5 pm – 9 pm on week days are pretty…intense. By intense I mean that the baby needs to be nursed, while the toddler needs some fruit, wants to play with play-doh, and needs help while going potty. ALWAYS at the exact same time. All at once. Daddy isn’t home yet to help, but thank goodness he’s there for dinner. Dinner is an exciting mix of food going everywhere, negotiations for more blueberries, and the baby refusing to sit in his bouncer for longer than two minutes because he HAS TO sit at the table with us and pull on mommy’s hair while she eats dinner. And, nurse again while she attempts to eat, of course. After dinner, we do dual bath and bed times, books, evening snack and bottle, and then label the next day’s bottles for daycare, do some laundry, and pick out everyone’s clothes for the next day. Anil and I usually don’t get “us” time until about 11 pm or so.

Somehow, when you’ve been away at work from your kids,  you don’t mind the circus after work. As hectic as it is, it’s really hard not to smile when the toddler tells you the “skarks” in Finding Nemo are scary :-) It’s such a blessing to have healthy children.  I’m also constantly being told that I’ll miss these moments one day, so I will take y’all’s word for it.  However, there is one thing I’ve really come to dislike when I get home and that’s cooking meals and doing dishes. It takes away from precious family time that we never seem to get enough of these days.  I never thought I’d say this and I still love to eat, but having a lot of time to prepare meals is just not happening. And that’s ok. We still manage to pull together dairy-and-soy-free dinners (for me, who nurses an allergic Asher) on most days, with shameless take-out meals making up for whatever we’re lacking. I thought I’d share a few of these super simple meals, in case you’re in the same boat and don’t have more than about 15 minutes to get dinner on the table.

Four Weekday Recipes You Can Actually Make

1. Oven roasted veggies and sausage: Pick a few veggies that don’t get too soggy in the oven. We like sweet potatoes, bell peppers, onions. Add your favorite kielbasa or sausage. Don’t eat meat? You can try tofu or soy based sausage, or toss in cooked lentils at the end. Toss the veggies and sausage with natural Italian seasoning, some garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Bake at 350 to 375 from about 45 minutes to an hour (really depends on your oven). Done! Healthy, easy, and you can prep it the night before and just throw it in the oven as soon as you get home. Depending on the protein you pick, this is a wonderful gluten, dairy, and soy-free meal as well.

Oven roasted goodies

2. Alexia frozen veggies and fried eggs: If you’re going to go the frozen route, Alexia is actually a pretty good brand because they use all natural ingredients. I like their asparagus, red potato, and mushroom medley. I sauté this mix with a little bit of olive oil and then fry some eggs for protein. Very simple, but tasty.

Alexia and eggs

3. Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala burgers in tomato-cilantro sauce. Ok, this one requires a little bit more night-before prep and also requires you to have some Indian spices on hand. Go grab a small container and mix in a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of dried thyme, a teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala. Mix well and get back to it the next day when you’re ready to cook. When it’s game time, grab a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes and a handful of fresh cilantro. Wash well and toss in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add some olive oil to a pan and add the dry spice mix. Cook for a few minutes and add the tomato-cilantro mix. Cook for another 5 minutes or so and crumble in the completely defrosted veggie burgers, from TJ’s, of course. Cook for another 10 and you’re done! Indian food that tastes like it took an hour to make, done in about 20 minutes.

IMG_8964

4. Chimichurri-anything. I absolutely love chimichurri sauce. It’s so easy to make and you can prepare it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Here’s what you do: take 1 cup fresh cilantro, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 large cloves of garlic, 1/2 tbsp cumin powder, 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like the heat). Blend it all in a food processor & toss it on pretty much anything. And by anything I do mean anything: roasted or steamed veggies, potatoes, meats, tofu, tempeh, chicken, yuca, you name it. SO good.

Chimi

Nine Ways to Fix a Toddler Dinner Rut

Hey, mom holding the box of mac & cheese with the neon yellow powder in it. Yes, you. I’m not judging. Really. Whether it’s time or money, I understand that you have to bust out the packaged goods from time to time. And maybe all your child will eat is mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. At least you’re feeding him/her. However, if you’re looking to break out of a toddler food rut and get your toddler on the road to healthy eating, I do have a few ideas in mind.

Anil and I are foodies, so we eat a wide variety of foods. We’re also health nuts, but treat ourselves to “naughty” food enough to the point where we don’t lose our minds or binge eat junk food. With that in mind, we’ve been feeding Dilan a wide variety of foods as well since he was about 5 months old. Different cuisines, textures, and tastes. It’s hard to say whether or not he’s just an easy going eater, or, if our efforts to introduce lots of variety paid off. Like most toddlers, he still has his days where all he eats for dinner is cantaloupe and black olives. Happened just this week. But in general, he at least tries to take a bite out of most things we put in front of him. Our meal policy is that he has to try everything. If he doesn’t like it, we don’t force him to eat it, but it will make an appearance again on the menu some other time. You can’t try enough with toddlers.

The biggest reason for not feeding your child healthy foods is often time. I can completely sympathize with that since I have under 20 minutes to cook dinner on a weeknight, with no one around to entertain Dilan while I cook. This often means my actual cooking time gets down to about 5 minutes. It’s beyond difficult, and that’s with only ONE child and an adequate food budget. However, somehow we still make it work. It’s usually thanks to lots of planning ahead on weekends and cutting and marinating ahead as well. Short cuts are a must for us too (hello, Trader Joes!). So without further ado, here are some of our best healthy toddler meals. Some cooked from scratch, some haphazardly thrown together, and some with a million short cuts…but none with preservatives or junk. Enjoy and please let me know what your favorite healthy toddler meal ideas are!

 

Loaded Portobello Mushroom Burgers

A few weekends ago, we made these Portobello mushroom burgers and they were uh-mazing. I call them loaded because even though they don’t have a ton of ingredients piled on, they are loaded with flavor. Here’s how we made them:

The ‘Shrooms
Simply wash and pat dry the mushrooms. We grilled three total on our George Foreman grill. Whether you do this on a Foreman or in a grill pan, count on grilling these for about 10 – 15 minutes. We added a balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s to these before we tossed them on the grill, but beware that this may cause them to grill a bit faster (and they will burn if you don’t take them off the grill on time). We served the mushrooms on whole wheat buns.

The Toppings
A healthy dose of guacamole goes amazingly well on top of the mushrooms. Check out my homemade version here: http://instagram.com/p/mdcTMrtTTl/. I also picked up some organic mayo from Trader Joe’s and mixed it with a good amount of Sriracha. Delicious, but if you want a healthier version of this, mix some plain greek yogurt with Sriracha instead. Or, go half and half. Finally, grind some freshly ground black pepper on top and you’re good to go! We served this on bibb lettuce that we got from our weekly local produce box. Some baked sweet potatoes would make a terrific side as well. What do you think?

loaded portobello mushroom burgers

One-Handed Veggie Fried Rice

Dilan is still in his clingy phase. He just wants to be held as soon as we come home. I secretly love it since I don’t see the boy during working hours, so I’ll take it :-). It does make prepping his dinner difficult. My solution to this is to hold him while whipping this up. I tried this recipe for veggie fried rice on him twice now. He devoured it both times. I got several requests to share it, so here it is!

The rice
We use organic brown basmati rice that you can find in Asian stores. Don’t let this fool you though, any long grain brown rice will work just fine. We use a rice cooker to cook ours since it cooks it perfectly every time. I make about a cup for every 2 people. You can use a stove or microwave as well. Just cook according to directions and make sure the rice is fairly dry. I usually do this beforehand (the night before) so I don’t have to wait for the rice to cook while handling Dilan. The rice goes in last.

The protein
I scramble one egg per person at high heat. Add at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil to a pan. Add more oil if needed. Crank up the heat, crack the eggs and quickly scramble them. Ok, so you can’t really do this part one-handed, so put the baby down first so you don’t burn him, please! It’s ok for the eggs to brown a little bit at the edges. Once your eggs are scrambled, add in the veggies.

The veggies
Any type of mixed veggies will do. We buy the frozen organic mixed veggies from Trader Joe’s. You don’t need to defrost these or cook them separately. They’ll go in right after the egg and need to be stir-fried for about 5 – 7 minutes on almost high heat.

The seasoning
Once your eggs are scrambled, add a few splashes of  low-sodium soy sauce and a few dashes of black pepper. That’s it. This will give you a nice and subtle Asian flavor, but wont’ be too overwhelming. A lot of the flavor will come from the toasted sesame oil. Once you’ve added your seasoning, stir in the rice for  a few more mins on medium heat and you’re done! This seems to be pretty toddler and kid friendly…let me know what you think!

One-handed veggie fried rice

My Take on Toddler Dinners

I am probably not your role model mom when it comes to cooking gourmet toddler food. I love cooking and can whip up some pretty exotic meals, but with Dilan, I’ve been keeping things simple. He’s been eating finger foods since he was about 10 months old and we love it. We decided to raise him as independently as possible, very much in line with the Montessori education he gets at school. We don’t spoon feed him much, if it all. He’s just now learning how to use utensils. Slow, but steady progress on that one.

I normally have less than 20 minutes to get dinner on the table from the time I park the car in the garage until Dilan is practically melting from hunger. Lately, he’s been extra clingy and I am hardly able to complete a single task without picking him up. It’s probably a developmental stage he’s going through, which means more hugs for Dilan, but less food prep time for me. It usually also translates into cutting fruits and veggies the night before. Another big reason why I don’t sweat it too much in the kitchen: though our boy is a great eater, his food consumption ebbs and flows, like any toddler’s. If he’s teething, he’ll devour his fruits, but not much else. During growth spurts, the carbs and meats go down first and he may even “ask” for seconds. On average, he eats really well… ::hides food on floor under the table::

I do find it challenging to get toddler dinners consisting of REAL and healthy food on the table FAST. It’s so easy to get into a food rut and run out of ideas.  If you haven’t yet, check out mannlymamma’s blog, especially her section about toddler dinners. She’s an amazing blogger and provides some great inspiration for fast toddler meals. So for my future self and for those of you out there who are in a toddler dinner rut right now, here’s what we’ve been doing lately:

bigdinner

Organic chicken nuggets (I like the Applegate brand), blueberries, peas and carrots, sliced avocado, sweet potatoes. Dilan devoured this. Down to the last crumb and pea. Daddy stole a chicken nugget.

bean salad

Northern bean salad with chopped cherry tomatoes, oregano, and fresh basil. I know that sounds fancy, but the beans were canned, so this took 10 minutes to put together the night before. Veggie pasta (none was eaten, he didn’t like the texture). Bananas in TWO compartments. Yeah, this rookie mom didn’t realize that the round section is for the sippy cup…

sprouts

I tried to be slightly fancier here, but this back fired big time. Brussel sprouts with red onions – none were eaten. Whole wheat rotini sprinkled with Parmesan, and organic chicken nuggets again. What the heck was I thinking?! I LOVE Brussel sprouts, though. Two glasses of wine were consumed after this meal. Not by the toddler.

turkey

Avocado, cinnamon pears leftover from breakfast  (I basically do the same thing that I do with bananas), diced organic turkey breast, and sweet potatoes. Everything was gone in minutes.

See? For a big time foodie who eats everything, these are pretty basic. I’m not a fancy gourmet mom. Just a practical one with very limited time after work. Feel free to send me your favorites! I can always use new ideas. And a glass of wine.

Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

Did you know that capers are really Mediterranean flower buds? They’ve got a super strong flavor and are usually pretty salty, so a little goes a long way with these guys. The great thing about this lemon caper butter sauce is that you can quickly whip it up and add it to chicken, fish, or even tofu. It goes well with steamed or sauteed veggies as well. Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients

1/2 stick of butter, unsalted

1.5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons of capers, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon of lemon zest (optional)

 

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the capers, lemon juice, and lemon zest and slowly simmer for a few minutes. This recipe should give you enough lemon caper butter sauce to drizzle over 3-4 chicken breasts or pieces of  fish or meat. Enjoy with a healthy side to make up for all that butter! 😉

 lemon-caper-butter-sauce

Manchurian Tofu or Paneer with Bok Choy

Manchurian tofu or paneer is one of those dishes that is so easy to whip up that it makes an appearance at least every few weeks in our house. It’s hearty, satisfying, and pretty healthy too (unless you use full-fat paneer). Here’s how you can recreate it:

Ingredients (for 2 people)

A bunch of baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 container of cubed extra firm tofu, baked or fried (see below) OR
2 cups of fried cubed paneer
1 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fried onions
1/4 cup of soy sauce, more as needed
1 cup of water
2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste
1 green Thai chili (optional)
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
More water and corn starch as needed

Directions

1. Fry the paneer or tofu, or for a healthier version, bake the tofu (be sure to drain it really well first) on parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with some cooking spray at 350 for about 10 minutes. Turn over after 10 minutes so the other side can brown. Take out the oven when both sides are a light golden brown.

2. Heat the oils in a large wok on medium-high heat and add the ginger-garlic paste and green chili. Stir and saute for about a minute.

3. Add the bok choy and saute for about 6-7 minutes. Then add the soy sauce and fried onions, followed by the cup of water and half the cilantro. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Dissolve a tablespoon of corn starch in a little bit of water and add to the mix. The cornstarch will allow the sauce to thicken when taken off heat. Simmer for another 5 minutes and taste a bit of the sauce. Add more soy sauce as needed and adjust the amount of cornstarch and water as well (if needed).

5. Take off heat and set the wok aside for a few minutes so that the sauce can thicken. Add the other half of the cilantro on top. Serve warm with white or brown rice.

Slow Cooker Shredded Buffalo Chicken

With a newborn in tow and no one else around during the day, getting meals on the table has been close to impossible! Enter the slow cooker. Our Crockpot has been a real life saver over the last few weeks. I modified this shredded buffalo chicken recipe. It’s so easy and makes the best tacos, so you can look like a pro cook, even if you don’t have any time to slave away at the stove!

Here’s what you do (to feed 2-3 people): Take about 3 thawed boneless and skinless chicken breasts and place them in your slow cooker. Pour over about half a 12 oz bottle of your favorite buffalo sauce. We like Frank’s wing sauce a lot! Mix in about half a packet of your favorite ranch dip mix. The trick here is to find one without MSG, if you care enough to leave that out of your food. Be sure to coat both sides of each chicken breast with the mix and sauce. Once this is done, close the crockpot, cook on low for at least 5 hours and then take the chicken out. Shred each breast on a cutting board, toss with two tablespoons of butter (this is where it gets naughty!) and put back into the crockpot. Cook on low for about 10 more minutes and serve with your favorite taco toppings. We like celery and blue cheese, but let your imagination go wild here. Not the most culinary recipe, but delicious, easy, and very fussy newborn friendly!

Greek Grilled Chicken Kabobs

Even if it gets too cool to grill these outside, these tangy kabobs can still be grilled indoors on a George Foreman (or other type) of indoor grill on the stove. These are simple, healthy, and very versatile, as you can pair them with just about any side salad, potato dish, hummus & pita, or mixed rice dish you can imagine.

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 people)

About a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 8 oz container of greek yogurt
1/3 cup of crumbled feta cheese – any kind, best flavor with the kind with Mediterranean herbs mixed in
Zest of half about half lemon
Juice of about ¼ of a lemon
½ teaspoon of dried rosemary
½ teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
Cooking spray, if needed

Directions

1. Cut up the chicken and mix all ingredients except for the chicken in a large bowl.

2. Marinate the chicken pieces in the mixture overnight or for at least 4 hours.

3. Heat up your grill and spray with cooking spray if necessary. You can optionally place the chicken on skewers.

4. Grill the chicken until fully cooked, or no longer pink from the inside. Serve warm!

Lazy Lasagna

I love a good, hearty lasagna, but really only have time to make lasagna on weekends, since it takes a while to bake in the oven. And even then, who wants to spend all weekend in the kitchen? That’s exactly why I turned to cheese ravioli to speed up the lasagna making process. Here’s how it works:

The ravioli is basically a substitute for lasagna noodles and ricotta / whatever other type of cheese you like to use. I still use Parmesan and Mozzarella, because I like my lasagna cheese and veggie loaded. It does not matter what type of cheese ravioli you buy, as long as it’s the “jumbo” kind. The larger raviolis will make it easier to cut the lasagna into equal portions without making a total mess out of the dish. All the other ingredients are completely up to you! My favorite way to make this dish is with soy crumbs, lots of fresh garlic, spinach and a simple, homemade tomato sauce.


Directions:

1. Boil the ravioli and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, cook your meat with some chopped onions and olive oil. I often make my lasagna completely vegetarian by substituting Morningstar Farms veggie crumbles instead of meat. You could also go completely veggie by stir-frying some zucchini, spinach, and your other favorite veggies.
3. Mix your meat and veggies with tomato or marinara sauce and then layer a large, oven-proof casserole with the ravioli, then the tomato mixture, and then a thin layer of Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese. Keep repeating until all your ingredients are used up.
4. Bake the casserole at 350 for about 35 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Enjoy!

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