Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sandwich Ideas for Kids

We all know the pressure on parents to get 3 good meals into our kids everyday, and, if you are like me, I only use "kid food" (hot dogs, mac n cheese, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza) as a last resort when I am unprepared and/or pmsing! (always organic versions!) So what can we feed our kids that is quick and easy, exposes them to a variety of tastes and colors, and is healthy too? I have gotten pretty creative with the sandwich and thought I would share some of our favorites. We seemed to have fallen into a cereal rut for breakfast, though I do try to sneak in healthy, homemade pancakes, homemade oatmeal, or eggs occasionally (and almost always a green smoothie!) But I really try to mix it up for lunch and dinner. Plus, sandwiches are easy to pack for picnics and school and can be a really creative way to sneak in all sorts of nutrients.

I always start with Rudy's organic honey wheat bread. Even though we eat meat occasionally, I have always been leery of lunch meat, so most of our sandwiches are vegetarian. Jamison is not a picky eater and I'm not quite sure if it is because I got really, really lucky, or because I have always offered him a variety of foods and never cooked him separate "kid food" (I even added herbs and spices to his homemade baby food) Probably just luck but my ego likes to pretend it is all me :) He is used to lots of color in his food and I hope that since that is all he has ever known, he won't change (fingers crossed!!!) So hopefully these ideas will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters!

Cucumber Sandwich
2 slices bread (I cut the crusts for this one)
6 thin slices of cucumber
several spinach leaves, minced
organic cream cheese or Two minute veggie dip
sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
optional: avocado slices, sprouts, thinly sliced radishes, tomato slice

Put a good schmear of cream cheese or spread on both sides of the bread. Mix it up with veggie or flavored cream cheeses too, or even just a sprinkle of dill. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on one side of bread and minced spinach on the other and push down a little so they stick to the spread. Add thinly sliced cucumbers and any other veggie slices you want and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I like to smoosh the sandwich down so it is nice and thin and easy to eat. For my toddler, I cut into 4 squares. This is also fabulous on open faced toasted bagels (my staple lunch in college!)

Nut Butter and Fruit Sandwich
2 slices bread
nut butter spread of choice (I alternate between crunchy peanut and almond)
thinly sliced banana or apple

Spread on the nut butter, add sliced fruit, drizzle some honey and sprinkle some cinnamon. For an occasional treat, grill! We do use jelly occasionally and I found an awesome jelly called St. Dalfour that has zero sugar in it and is sweetened with grape juice. Peach flavored is our favorite!

Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Avocado
2 slices bread
sliced organic cheddar
few leaves of spinach, minced
4 thin slices avocado
I add a thin slice of tomato from the garden when they are in season

Put cheese on bread, then add avocado and spinach. Melt a little butter in pan and grill starting with cheese side down. Cover for quicker melting. I press mine flat to make it nice and thin for a toddler's mouth. Add carmelized onions and sauteed mushrooms for the adults...amazing!

Tuna Melts
1 slice bread, toasted
1 small can wild caught tuna
minced veggies (cukes, pickles, spinach and red onion)
couple spoonfuls of mayo
squeeze of mustard
salt, pepper and dill to taste
sliced organic cheese

Mix tuna, veggies, mayo, mustard, and spices. Spread onto toast, cover with cheese and broil until cheese melts. For an on the go version, serve between two slices of soft bread and a slice of provolone. I cut into fingers for easier eating.

2 slices bread, lightly toasted
2 pieces bacon
1/4 avocado mashed
thinly sliced tomato
salt and pepper

Lightly spread mayo on one piece of toast and generously spread mashed avocado on other. Crumble the bacon for easier bites and press into avocado. Layer lettuce and tomato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press flat.

Veggie Sandwich:
2 slices bread
sliced tomato
sliced cucumber
sliced avocado
lettuce or spinach
sliced pepperjack cheese
mayo and dijon mustard
salt and pepper
crushed potato chips

Spread mayo and mustard on bread. Layer veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with crushed potato chips and serve with extra on the side. This is our staple sandwich when we our on summer vacation in Michigan!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Veggie Pasta with Herbs, Bacon and Gorgonzola

It has been quite some time since my last post. We had a 3 week vacation in Michigan and I have been slow to get back to reality! It was wonderful having a break from not only the daily "to do" list, but from technology as well. Our society is overly plugged in these days and as much as I love some of the technologies available today, I noticed that I felt much more relaxed and present without the constant consumption of checking facebook statuses, thinking in blog, reading blogs, and searching, searching, searching for recipes, window treatments, shoes, a diagnosis of weird symptoms, weather conditions, paint colors, decor ideas, hiking trails...sound familiar? 

But now I am back and I am ready to recommit to my blog because I truly believe that sharing healthy recipes, important knowledge about food, and encouraging people to garden is important. In fact, I have 4 friends here in Denver that started a garden this year because of me (and since I'm pretty new here, 4 is a pretty large percentage of my friends!) It is those small influences in life that can make a big impact on the world and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know that my passion for cooking and gardening actually inspires others to pick up a spatula or a shovel and literally dig in! Cooking and gardening have become less important to people and I think it is because not only are we way too busy to be bothered by such trivial chores as feeding our families healthy, homemade food, but our country has no food culture. Just about every other culture in this world revolves around the growing and preparation of food and people take real pride in cooking from scratch. So hopefully, in time, we can redefine our generation as the one who took a stand against industrialized food and got back into the kitchen!!!

So this was the recipe that finally got me back to my computer because it was just too good not to share! I am getting more creative and better at cooking without a recipe and one of my favorite types of meals to play around with is pasta! I knew I would be using a ton of veggies and as many of them from the garden as possible. I always use at least 4-5 cloves of garlic in everything I make, but with this pasta, I felt like using even more...8 or 9 seemed about right. I also had 4 pieces of organic bacon leftover from camping and, well, I do have a love affair with bacon so that was a no brainer. I wanted to use a small amount of strong cheese for some flavor. At the store I found an organic, raw milk gorgonzola from Oregon which sounded perfect. I also remembered I had some white wine in the fridge so, why not? And the highlight of the dish is tons of fresh herbs. I went out to the garden and snipped a handful of thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary and parsley. A dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and viola! Personally, I thought this dish to be restaurant worthy though I might be biased :) Bon Appetite!

Summer Veggie Pasta with Herbs, Bacon and Gorgonzola
serves 6-8

16 oz pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter or ghee 
1 Tablespoon reserved bacon fat
8-10 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
1 zucchini cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 yellow squash cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion sliced in crescents
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2 ears of corn, kernals removed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup white wine
2 large handfuls spinach,  chopped 
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
4 slices bacon chopped
2-4 ounces gorgonzola crumbled
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs
juice from 1 lemon

Cook pasta according to directions. While pasta is cooking, cook bacon reserving 1 Tablespoon of fat. Crumble and set aside. Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter to the pan and heat on medium high. Add onions and cook for at least 5 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the remaining vegetables,  and saute for several minutes. Add the white wine and herbs and let simmer until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Add drained pasta back into the pot, add in the chopped spinach immediately so it can wilt, the vegetable mixture, pasta water, bacon, gorgonzola, pinenuts, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Serve with salt and freshly grated black pepper.