Bytes of Love

Working mommy. Startup daddy. Rascal toddlers.

Category: Tips & Tricks (Page 1 of 2)

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

20 Finger Foods for the Toothless Baby

I have a confession to make. I’m pretty tired of cutting up fruits, veggies, meats, and other proteins into mini-bite size pieces. At the same time, I’m so glad we’re feeding Dilan fresh and healthy foods. He’s finally the proud owner of two pearly whites popping out of his bottom gum. But it took forever for him to get those teeth, so I can totally relate to those of you who are still mashing up foods. The good news is that babies actually don’t need teeth to be able to mash up food. Those jaws are strong. So months before his teeth actually came in, we started practicing with finger foods. WONDERFUL for those fine motor skills, especially since he’s a bit slow at mastering those.

finger foods

Pre-finger foods, Dilan ate anything from kale to quinoa. Finger foods may seem easy, but they’re actually difficult to dream up when you’ve had a long day and are pulling together breakfast and lunch ala finger (err, you know what I mean) for the next day at 9 PM. Don’t even get me going on the labeling that’s needed for daycare. We were soon labeling no less than 5 containers every evening. I finally invested in these super small and portable BPA-free plastic containers and started cutting up all of Dilan’s finger foods for the week every Sunday evening. It’s been so much easier than trying to do it every week night. Even if you don’t need containers, you can still benefit from separating out the food by using an ice cube tray. Works awesome as well. So now, what exactly have we been feeding our pickle? Well here ya go:

20 Finger Foods for the Toothless Baby

  • Sweet potato
  • Zucchini
  • Boiled green beans
  • Soft peas
  • Steamed diced carrots
  • Northern beans
  • Black beans (fork mashed)
  • Tofu
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • String cheese
  • Gluten-free waffle
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Avocado
  • Soft pears
  • Soft peaches
  • Sweet mandarin oranges
  • Finely sliced grapes
  • Soft kiwi
  • Blueberries

Dils now eats finger foods by the fistful, even with only 2 teeth present. We’re particularly impressed with his high fist-to-mouth-ratio. So far so good. I’m always open to new suggestions, though. What would you add to this list?

Fresh & Fun Summer Salsas

Who doesn’t like a fresh salsa to eat alongside Mexican food or tortilla chips? Although I’m always up for a nice and spicy salsa, I rarely make my own. This summer, Anil’s 30th birthday party gave me the perfect opportunity to change that. I explored with avocados, pineapple, and peaches. Instead of giving you exact measurements, I think it’s better to just give you some guidelines, since the outcome of these salsas highly depend on how spicy or sweet you want these to be. You don’t need any recipes, all you need is some time for  a bit of trial and error, I promise! Here’s what I came up with:

Avocado Wasabi Salsa

Take a few of your favorite avocados, add some tomatoes, finely chopped cilantro and onion, jalapeños, and lime or lemon juice. Yep, you read that right, all the ingredients you would normally use to make a nice and robust guacamole. Now here’s the secret ingredient: wasabi! Be careful with the number of jalapeños you add here since you don’t want to make this too spicy to eat. Gradually add about a drop of wasabi paste (found in many Asian stores as well as regular grocery stores) to the mixture and keep taste testing until you find your desired level of spiciness. Lastly, don’t forget to add salt to taste!


Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

For this salsa, you can either use very finely chopped fresh pineapple, or even the small, 1-cup fruit bowls of pineapple (with all-natural juice, no added real or fake sugars). Either one will work, but you’ll want to briefly run these through your food chopper for to make sure the pineapple is not too chunky. Before you do that, add some fresh jalapenos, again, the number you add here, will largely depend on your spice level tolerance and the spiciness level of your jalapenos. I used ½ jalapeno per cup of crushed pineapple. Seed and chop about half a Roma tomato and then briefly run all three ingredients through your food chopper. If your pineapple is too sour, simply add about a spoon of sugar to sweeten the salsa a bit. Season with some fresh salt and pepper and you’re good to go!


Ginger Peach Salsa

I love the flavors of sweet peaches, paired with  slightly spicy and warm ginger. For this recipe, peel a one-inch piece of ginger and briefly run it through a food chopper with 2 cups of fresh peaches (skin and pit removed), or 2 of the fruit bowls of peaches (with all-natural juice, no added real or fake sugars), and half a Roma tomato (seeded and chopped). Want more ginger flavor? Simply add some ginger powder, about 1/8 of a teaspoon at a time, as you don’t want the ginger to be too overpowering. You can also add a bit of sugar to sweeten this salsa. The exact flavor totally depends on how peachy or gingery you want this to be. Before you serve, just make sure that the ginger piece is fully chopped.


Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes, not only because they taste good, but because they’re high in vitamin C, B6, A, fiber, iron, and magnesium as well. The next time you make sweet potato fries and want to do things slightly different, try sprinkling on some garam masala and salt on your fries. The warmth and slight spiciness of the masala goes together great with the sweetness of sweet potatoes. My favorite brand of store-bought oven sweet potato fries is Trader Joe’s, but many other brands are great in the oven as well. You can cut up your own fries too, though this is often a bit too time consuming to do during the week for me. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Excellent in summer or fall :-)

Five Ways to Faster & Healthier Meals

In my book, eating healthy does not mean having to slave away in the kitchen for hours. As much as I like to cook, I dislike having to do dishes and standing in the kitchen after a long day at work as much as the next person. Somehow, I still find ways to cook up healthy and delicious meals all the time. Here are my favorite tips for getting these meals on the table faster and easier:

1. Shop Early
I like to plan my meals ahead for about 5 days at a time so that I only have to shop once or maybe twice during the week. This saves me a tremendous amount of time. If you’re unsure what your significant other or kids might have going on during one of the days, simply keep that dinner open, keeping a simple backup (sandwiches and a tossed salad, for example) in mind. Worried about your bread going stale if you shop in advance? Here are some tips on that:

2. Cut Ahead
If you have a dish on your weekly menu that you know will require a lot of cutting, save that dish for a Monday or Friday. I prefer Mondays because I’ll simply do my cutting on Sunday evening or afternoon, store the veggies or meats in the fridge, and toss them in a pot or pan the next day. Fridays work as well, though you might be a bit tired or burned out from the week.

3. Freeze Your Herbs
I like to eliminate or reduce the need for fats and oils in my dishes by flavoring them with fresh herbs. But, what to do with those huge piles of thyme and rosemary sprigs? I tend to freeze my leftover herbs. Some say they lose some flavor that way, but I hardly ever notice this and save a ton of money by not throwing out leftover herbs. We used to grow fresh basil by the window sill, which is even more economical. The basil plant died after a while, but we still have a curry leaf plant growing in our kitchen. Hugely popular in Indian cooking!

4. Microwave Your Garlic
This may sound weird, but if you’ve got a recipe with a lot of garlic in it, you can greatly reduce the time you spend peeling the garlic by microwaving the individual garlic cloves on a small plate for about 8-10 seconds. If you microwave them for longer than that, they will start to cook, but if you stick to the 8-10 seconds, the skins will peel off very easily. Voila!

5. Repeat
Need to use up a whole eggplant, but know you won’t be able to use it all up in one dish? Create two! Since buying in bulk is often more economical, I’ll often by more of a veggie or meat and will either freeze or use up the product (if it’s not freezer friendly) by creating two completely different dishes. This way, we don’t get tired of eating the same thing. For example, I’ve made Asian style spicy garlic eggplant and eggplant fajitas (recipe coming soon!) in the same week before. Works out great. And yes, you can still be ambitious and plan to make lamb bourguignon one day. Just plan it for a weekend, holiday, or some time when you really do want to spend time in the kitchen.


Potato & Kale Samosas

As my fellow busy girls know, short-cuts are your best friend when you’re short on time. A few weeks ago, I really wanted to make samosas, but had no time to make the dough from scratch and had a ton of farm-fresh kale on hand that I really needed to use up. My solution: puff-pastry sheets and potato-kale filling! Although less authentic than the original version of the Indian samosa, it worked out fantastic. Here’s what I did:

(for 16 samosas)

2 puff pastry sheets (found in the freezer section of your grocery store)
2 medium organic Russet potatoes
half a bunch of organic kale
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons of coriander powder
2 teaspoons of red chili powder
2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste
2 tablespoons of olive oil (more as needed)
salt to taste


1. Take the puff pastry sheets out of the freezer to allow them to defrost. Boil potatoes (you can leave the skin on) and lightly mash them so they form small bite-size chunks. Wash and cut the kale into bite-size pieces as well.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan and saute the kale for about 10 minutes, or until soft.

3. Take the kale out and set aside. In the same oil, add the cumin seeds and fry for about 3 – 4 minutes. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the rest of the seasonings. Stir and add in the kale and boiled potatoes. Add salt last and saute for about 10 more minutes to allow all flavors to blend.

4. Turn off the heat and move the skillet to allow the filling to cool. Cut the puff pastry sheets into 8 triangles, as shown in the picture below. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Make cone out of each triangle and spoon enough filling in so that the samosa will close without breaking. You can add a tiny bit of water to the edges of the triangles so that edges will stick more easily.

6. Place each samosa on a parchment lined backing sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite chutney!


Ginger Infused Oil

Infusing olive or canola oil with fresh ginger is one of my favorite ways to add flavor to stir-frys, fried rices, noodles, or other Asian dishes. I learned this trick from my mom, who makes the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted. Though the ginger flavor is subtle, it makes a huge difference in these dishes. Simply cut up a few 1 to 2 inch pieces of fresh ginger and add them to the hot oil. Fry until they start to brown and then be sure to remove them as the ginger pieces will cause a bitter flavor if you leave them in. Once removed, simply add your veggies, meat / chicken, noodles, rice, etc. Enjoy!

Buying Local, Eating Fresh

For the last two years, I’ve been purchasing fresh fruits, veggies, and even local breads from The Produce Box. The Produce Box is basically a delivery service that works with local (NC-only) farmers to bring fresh produce to many communities and front doors in North Carolina. What I love about this concept is that it benefits farmers by giving them steady and predictable business, makes us healthier by allowing us to eat fresh produce that hasn’t been picked more than just a few days ago, and helps out the environment by reducing the distance the fruits and veggies have to travel.

The price isn’t much different from what you would find at local grocery stores, so in terms of costs, you’re not saving much (if anything). However, services like these connect families to their communities, allow them to be healthier, and introduce products that they might not have normally tried. As many of you know, I love a challenge in the kitchen and the Produce Box has given me that by including items such as beets, rutabagas, and turnips that I normally don’t cook a whole lot with. With a handful of boxes to pick from each week, and an organic box, this service is right up our alley! If you want to eat local and fresh, teach the kids about where their food comes from, and help the environment while you’re at it, check out to find local farm programs near you. Over the last few years, I’ve created Indian, Mexican, Hispanic, Italian, American, Indonesian, Chinese, and many other types of dishes with a single produce box. There’s much more that you can do with the veggies than just building salads. But, just in case you’re interested in those, I included two pictures that show off my favorite Produce Box salads. Enjoy and feel free to reach out to me if you want to learn more about how to get involved with a local farms program!

Chopped Ginger-Garlic

Since many of the dishes I cook are Indian, you’ll often see “ginger-garlic paste” listed as one of the ingredients in many of my dishes. Although you could certainly find ginger-garlic paste at any Indian grocery store, I find that it just can’t beat the taste of freshly chopped ginger-garlic. In order to make this, simply peel a bunch of garlic cloves along with a roughly equal amount of ginger and finely chop these together in a food chopper. Then, if you need to make this into a paste, simply run the side of your knife through the chopped ginger-garlic a few times to make this pasty. Feel free to substitute chopped ginger-garlic for ginger-garlic paste in my recipes. The chopped ginger-garlic stays fresh for at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. It takes a bit of work, but pays off big time in terms of flavor and aroma!

Organic Baked French Toast with Blueberries

This is another recipe that I thought was worth sharing. I tried making this just this morning and not only did it make the house smell amazing, it was really easy to prepare and turns out to be a wonderful dish for entertaining. You can find the recipe for the dish here, but read through some tips on how I made this a bit different:

  • I found that you actually need much more bread than the recipe calls for. No matter what kind of bread you choose, use twice the amount, so six slices instead or the recipe will turn out too mushy.
  • If you want the recipe to be more like a bread pudding, use the amount of milk recommended, otherwise, if you want this to be a little less mushy, use 2.5 cups of milk instead of 3. I used 1% milk instead of whole milk and this worked just fine.
  • I changed this into an organic recipe since I normally buy all the ingredients organic. This obviously won’t affect the taste much, if at all, and you certainly don’t have to buy organic,but I find that blueberries, butter, and milk are good candidates to buy organic because of the amount of pesticides and hormones normally found in them. Besides, you won’t just improve your health, you’ll be helping out organic farmers and the earth as well!

With Father’s day coming up, this isn’t a bad recipe to surprise dad with. Goes great with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I bet you the kids will love it, too.

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