Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce (with Veggies!) for Picky Eaters

When I started writing this post a couple of months back, I was super excited to have finally found a recipe that the entire family would eat.  Other than my red lentil and carrot soup with coconut, which I was getting so incredibly sick of, despite how delicious it is.


 Though I like pasta, I could easily live without it.  So I can't say that I was thrilled at the idea of eating spaghetti so frequently.   But the fact that my kids would eat it made me want to make this every single day, just to simplify my life.  I had finally found a meal that would keep everyone happy and hence, quiet, at meal time.  

look how much he ate compared to the
earlier photo - nothing short of a miracle!!!

Not only did this meal keep my kids happy, but it also got some veggies into them.  What could be better?  This is a one-dish meal, since it has carbs, protein and vegetables all mixed together.  Could life get any better?????  

Logan thought this was so good he had to
lick the leftovers off of his hands ;)
This recipe is an adaptation from my mom's fantastic spaghetti sauce.  I modified it a bit to sneak in a few extra veggies and to change the texture to be more picky eater friendly.

The recipe is not overly complicated, but there are a few steps involved and it then needs to simmer for a good hour.  So this is certainly not something you are going to whip up once the kids get home from school.  BUT, it makes quite a big batch and freezes wonderfully.  I divide this into family-sized portions and load my freezer with it.  This is our go-to meal on nights when I've forgotten to take something out, as it tastes just as good defrosted as fresh, defrosts quickly in the microwave and, of course, the pasta only takes minutes to make.

Now, there is certainly no guarantee that all picky eaters will eat this.  In fact, I'm sure that a lot of resistant eaters out there will not.  My kids have only very recently started mixing textures in their foods.  And I suspect that had we taken a different approach to our children's feeding issues, they still might not be trying foods such as these.  However, once your child is beginning to accept foods that mix different textures together, this recipe is a good one to try.

I should also address the idea of hiding vegetables in recipes.  You want to be careful about doing this with very picky and resistant eaters.  I do it now because my kids are too young to realize there is anything hidden.  However, if your child is old enough to notice little green specks here and there, you're probably best to not hide foods.  If your child finds food hidden in a dish where they are not expecting it, you are teaching them that they cannot trust what you tell them about what they are eating.  This will only make a resistant eater even more cautious to put something new into his/her mouth. 

One last thing before I share the recipe - I actually prefer the original version, as I like the chunks in the sauceHowever, I'll tolerate this thinner version as long as it keeps my kids eating!  If you have no picky eaters at home, I'd recommend you check out the original recipe here.

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 bay leaf
2 10 oz. cans mushroom stems and pieces, including liquid
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 C finely chopped onion

2 carrots, grated
2 zucchini, grated
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, pureed
1 28 oz. can Bravo spaghetti sauce
2 5 1/2 oz. cans tomato paste
2 7 1/2 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil
1 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese  

1.  Using a food processor, chop the onion very finely and grate the zucchini and carrots. 

my sous chef

2.  In a large pot (the largest one you have), cook the onion, ground beef and bay leaf until the beef for a few minutes.  While cooking the ground beef, regularly break it down with a fork, so that it is broken into as small of pieces as possible.  Add the grated zucchini and carrot and cook until softened and beef is cooked.  Drain any excess fat.

3.  Purée the mushrooms (including juice) and juice in a blender until very fine.  Also (separately if your blender is too small) blend the canned tomatoes.   


4.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer steadily, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.   

To keep this both gluten- and dairy-free, I omit the parmesan and serve it over quinoa pasta.  For a soy-free version, replace the Bravo spaghetti sauce with your favourite spaghetti sauce.

Difficulty level: moderate

Yield: 13 cups

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mom's Lasagna

Back almost a year ago when I wrote this post on my childhood faves, I was surprised to realize that I had yet to blog my mom's fantastic recipe for lasagna.  Her lasagna is absolutely fantastic.  Yes, I love all of her other delicious recipes that I included in my childhood faves.  But her lasagna is really something special.  One of the best I've ever had.  

But I could be biased.  

After all, it is my mom's recipe. 


This is a little complicated, but... my sister's boyfriend's sister (you still following me?) said that this is the best lasagna she's ever tried.  I wish I could tell you she is Italian, but she's UkrainianBut it's gotta still count for something, no?

All that to say that I think you should make this if you like lasagna. 

I still really love my roasted vegetarian lasagna too.  But sometimes, you just need a traditional beef lasagna.

I made this back when we were gluten, but not dairy free yet (I know!!!!  My blogging delay is a bit ridiculous these days!).  I now make a dairy-free version, using this butternut cashew "cheese" sauce from Oh She Glows instead of the cottage cheese mixture and Daiya instead of the cheese.  I can't say that it's as delicious as my mom's version, but I consider it to be not too bad, given that it's both gluten and dairy-free.
This recipe freezes well and is great to pull out as a quick defrosted meal, accompanied by a salad, such as this to-die-for ceasar salad or this wonderful cranberry avocado salad.
8-10 lasagna noodles
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. basil or rosemary
2 6oz. cans of tomato paste
1 1/2 C hot water
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint cottage cheese (small container)
1/2 lb. grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese

1.  Heat oil in a skillet.  Cook garlic and onion until soft.  Add beef and seasoning and cook until crumbly.  Add tomato paste and water and cook 10-15 minutes on low. 

2.  In a separate bowl, blend beaten eggs with cottage cheese.   


 3.  Cook noodles according to package directions.

4.  In a large dish, spoon a thin layer of meat sauce, 1/2 of the noodles, all of the cottage cheese mixture and 1/2 of the grated mozzarella.  Repeat with remaining sauce, noodles and mozzarella.  Sprinkle with parmesan.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for approximately one hour.


Difficulty level:  moderate 

For a gluten-free version, use rice noodles.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Favourite Slow-Cooker Recipes

As fall drew to an end, I decided to do a post on my favourite slow-cooker recipes, to get everyone into the mood for some comforting winter food.  And here we are, almost the end of January... better late than never, right?

Cooking for me this winter has really only meant using my slow cooker, for the most part.  Time is a precious entity these days and I love how you can whip together a healthy and delicious meal in under 30 minutes when using your slow cooker.  I also love coming home to a delicious smelling house.  And, not having to race to get everything ready last minute, as the kids scream from hunger!

These recipes are my favourite slow-cooker recipes, in no particular order.  I also have a slow-cooker tag on the left side of my blog, if you want to check out others.

I apologize for the quality of some of these photos.  This was way before I knew anything the manual settings of my camera or even knew what the word white balance meant ;)  I promise you, however, that these recipes are delicious, even if the photos of some of them are not the most appetizing.  

Mexican-style chicken with cilantro and lemon

Easy chicken tacos made with shredded chicken

Comforting shredded beef

Polynesian chicken

Chickpeas in curried coconut broth

Red lentil and carrot soup with coconut

Lamb keema

Thai chicken thighs

Easy cabbage roll casserole

Creole black beans

South American black bean soup

What are your favourite slow cooker recipes?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Banana and Coconut Milk Steel-Cut Oatmeal

We've been eating a lot of oatmeal over here.  For a long time, it was one of the only things Logan would eat for breakfast.  We've seen some massive changes in our kids' feeding since I returned from my S.O.S. Feeding Conference.  Probably not only attributable to the conference, but also, I strongly suspect, to our having eliminated gluten and dairy from their diets.  

We had them tested for food sensitivities over the holidays.  Food sensitivities are different from food allergies, in that they do not cause a direct allergic reaction, such as hives, difficulty breathing, etc.  Rather, they cause more subtle reactions, as they tend to be more related to the body's difficulty in breaking down certain foods.  

The testing showed that Logan was extremely sensitive to gluten, dairy and, of all things, oranges.  And Chloé tested extremely sensitive to dairy and oranges.  Yay to the return of gluten in my diet, I thought.  Since I am still breastfeeding Chloé, I have to follow the same diet as her.  However, I am sad to report that within 3 days of me having eating one portion of gluten a day (with Chloé not yet having any), she began waking up between 1 - 3 am for the entire day and would scream and howl in pain for hours on end.  Cut out the gluten and she's back to "normal".   

The nutritionist who tested Chloé suggested that although she's not actually sensitive to gluten, she may just be having a hard time digesting it now, because her system is upset and damaged from her other intolerances.  So we're back off of gluten yet again.  But I did enjoy those three date muffins I got to eat ;)

Ok... so as I was saying... until recently, my kids would only (mostly) eat oatmeal for breakfast.  And I was getting sick of the same old oatmeal every day.  So I thought I would change it up a bit and stumbled upon this recipe here for coconut milk banana oatmeal.  Um... **heaven**  Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I have a thing for coconut milk.

Now, my kids didn't actually eat any of this.  Heaven forbid - there were chunks in it from the bananas.  But whatever.  More for me ;)

Whip this together quickly one evening and you will wake up to a delicious-smelling house.

I tried making this with old-fashioned oats when I was at my sister's place, as they were out of steel-cut oats.  I wouldn't recommend it.  Did not work out.

I typically don't put sugar and butter in my oatmeal, but I do when I make this for a treat.  I've never tried it without, so I can't compare.  But it's darned delicious with! 

2 medium bananas, sliced (approximately 2 C)
2 (14 oz.) cans light coconut milk
1/2 C water
1 C steel cut oats
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, cut into 5-6 pieces, optional (I used coconut butter) 
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. ground flax seed
2 tbsp. hemp seed
1/4 tsp. salt

optional garnishes: additional sliced bananas, chopped macadamia nuts or walnuts, toasted coconut, maple syrup, additional brown sugar, additional coconut milk or butter   

1.  Coat inside of a 3 1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray.  Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker.  Stir, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours.  Alternatively, place all ingredients into a bowl that fits inside your slow cooker and mix.  Fill the slow cooker up to 1/2 - 2/3 the height of the slow cooker with hot water.  Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.



2.  Spoon into oatmeal bowls; add additional topping, if desired.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.  Freezes well.

To reheat single servings:  Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl.  Add 1/3 C milk or water.  Microwave on high for 1 minute; Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Recipe can be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker.  Increase cooking time one hour.

For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free oats.  

For a dairy-free version, use Earth balance or coconut butter  

Makes 7 servings. 

Difficulty level: easy

Taken from: