Gourmet Veggie Mama

Summer’s last hurrah

Okay, so maybe I am a little too ready for fall. I just love crisp, cool weather, wearing sweaters, the leaves changing…. It’s right around the corner. For now, though, it’s summer, which means grilling on the back patio, al fresco dining and beautiful evenings. I’ll miss it when it’s gone, so I guess I should just enjoy it while it’s here, shouldn’t I?

Anyway, the point is that we drank our last bottle of rosé this weekend (an Io Grenache Rosé, which we picked up at Byron on a trip to Santa Barbara this spring), and that must mean summer is coming to an end.

Ah, summer.

We enjoyed it with some padron peppers and manchego cheese, which is pretty much our go-to summer snack. Sautée the padron peppers (which we get through our CSA, lucky us) in a bit of olive oil in a cast iron skillet on the grill, sprinkle with fleur de sel and drizzle with a tiny bit of good balsamic vinegar, and it’s perfection.

Ah, summer. I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

Sunday brunch

Cooking is fairly haphazard in my house these days, especially when the baby is awake. It mainly consists of the hubby managing the baby while I man the stove, or vice versa. Today, I decided to make a frittata for lunch (we’ll call it Sunday brunch, since that’s the closest we get these days). I started while the better half was out running errands with Nora — chop up some summer squash and, oh, and while we’re at it, may as well steam the rest of the squash to make baby food (more on that later). Then the rest of the family showed up, and the babe needed to nurse, so I had Pat chop up the rest of the squash and some onion while I took care of that. He also thoughtfully minced some chives, which were a great addition.

I took back over while he played with Nora, and sautéed the squash and onions (plus some garlic) in olive oil. Then I realized that we had a bunch of new potatoes that needed to be used, so I scrubbed and sliced a few of those and threw them in, hoping the squash wouldn’t burn while they cooked. Meanwhile I beat a half-dozen eggs from Full Circle Farm (nothing like farm fresh eggs!) with a couple of dollops of ricotta cheese, the chives, salt, pepper, and several handfuls of pre-grated Italian cheese mix that I had in the fridge. As a friend and awesome frittata chef once told me, the secret to a great frittata is a LOT more cheese than you think is strictly necessary. I usually go by the rule of adding a bunch of cheese, until I think it looks right, and then I add one more handful.

After the veggies were about done, I poured the egg mixture over, and cooked it over medium heat until the edges started to set. Then I put the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes until it was golden brown and set all the way through.

Good eatin'

We served it up with some baby yogurt with mangoes and champagne grapes for Nora’s lunch. The only thing that could have made it better (for the grown-ups, that is) was a mimosa!

MacGyver Cooking

Last night was Night 3 of the hubby being gone, and I was out of pizza. It also happened to be the night he was coming home, and although he was just planning to pick something up on the way home, I thought it would be nice to cook something so we could have a late dinner together.

So what could I cook with the stuff I had on hand? Uhhhh… frozen cooked macaroni leftover from when Nora was a couple of months old? Check. Cheese? Always plentiful around here. Chard? I already mentioned we had a glut of it. That’s pretty much how chard mac and cheese was born. Despite being of humble origins, it turned out pretty well, I have to say. It was quick and easy to make after Nora went to bed, and served with a quick salad of bagged mache from Trader Joe’s and tarragon vinaigrette that I made a few days earlier, it was actually a pretty darn nice meal. The pasta was slightly mushy from being frozen and defrosted, but I’d definitely make this again with “new” macaroni.

Mmm... comfort food

Chard Mac and Cheese 
Loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese (which is awesome, BTW)

1 bunch chard, cleaned and roughly chopped (cut stems into smaller pieces)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
veggie broth
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. parmesan cheese, grated (I used a mixture of Italian four-cheese mix and a bit of smoked gouda I had leftover, because, why not?)
1 lb dried macaroni (I like to use whole wheat)
1 cup sour cream
bread crumbs*

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute the chard in the olive oil. Once it’s wilted, add a splash or two of veggie broth and cover over low heat until liquid is absorbed and chard is tender. Cool and then chop finely. Press moisture out with paper towels.

Heat the sour cream and cheeses in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with boiling water. Stir until combined and melted. Add the cheese mixture to the macaroni. Stir in the chard along with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and set under a preheated broiler until crumbs are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

* I keep bread crumbs stored in a mason jar in the fridge. I just use the food processor to grind old loaves of bread and keep them on hand for future use. Super-handy for times like these!

The verdict

The porridge is a hit!

Tasty, man, tasty.

The only thing I think I’d do differently next time is cook the rice a bit mushier so that it blends in better with the rest of the porridge. Other than that, it was great. Nora liked it thinned out with a bit more breast milk than I originally added, but that’s easy to do when serving.

I feel like I should say a couple of things about making your own baby food, since a friend brought it up. First, it’s easy! Really. This particular recipe is more involved than most, and it took me less than an hour on a weekend to whip up. It made two freezer trays (15 one-ounce cubes each), so that’s 10 to 15 breakfasts we’re talking about. Most baby food is just a matter of steaming or baking a fruit or veggie and pureeing it, which takes even less time. Plus, your baby gets to eat actual food, and you know exactly what’s in it. Have you ever smelled the jarred stuff? Not something I’d really want to eat. Sure, it’s fine in a pinch, but Nora clearly prefers mama’s cooking. If you’re thinking about making your own, or just need some new inspiration, I love wholesomebabyfood.com for ideas and technique. Check it out!

Gourmet Baby

The hubby is out of town for a few days, so I have had pizza for dinner two nights in a row. Bad Gourmet Mama. I just end up exhausted after a day by myself with the babe. At least it’s good pizza (Vicolo cornmeal crust pizza, to be exact). But still.

I will also be using one of my favorite lazy tricks this evening for dessert (which I clearly deserve) — baking cookie dough that I made and froze in ready-to-go balls back on some more productive day. Comes in handy sometimes.

At least Nora is eating right this week, though. Last weekend I tested out a recipe for baby porridge shared here. I’ll admit, I tasted it before I popped it in the freezer, and it was good stuff. I’d totally eat it for breakfast.

Multigrain Porridge 
Adapted from this recipe

2/3 cup oats
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup brown rice
4 dates, pitted
2 prunes, pitted
dash of cinnamon, allspice and/or other spices to taste

Good ingredients make good food... even for babies!

Cook the oats, quinoa and brown rice according to package directions. (I just did this all in the same pot, rinsing and wiping clean each time.) If you need a great method for perfect brown rice, here’s my favorite. Throw the dates, prunes and spices in with the oats while they’re cooking.


Cool slightly, add a bit of water and/or breast milk and blend or process in a food processor to your desired texture. Then serve it up to your munchkin, or pour into ice cube trays and freeze for later use.

Looks like breakfast!

Voila! Baby porridge.

Not YOUR mama’s cooking

So here I am, a thirtysomething mom newly in charge of cooking for the whole family. After several years as a corporate lawyer, I have “retired” to take care of my now almost 8-month-old baby girl and manage our household while my husband goes to work every day. How traditional of me.

I am loving my new life, and I now that I’m more in the swing of things, mom-wise, I’m relishing every minute of it. I am sort of traditional with a twist, though, as I’m a vegetarian. My husband is an omnivore, but we mostly eat vegetarian at home, and Nora hasn’t had meat yet, although we intend to let her make her own decisions on that score, once she’s old enough.

Anyway, that’s me in a nutshell. I’ll be writing about what I cook here, and it’s usually pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. I plan our menus around the fresh, organic veggies we get in our weekly CSA box, and, although I’ll admit to having the occasional off day where we get takeout or thaw something for dinner, we generally eat pretty well around here.

Chard-Tomato Peasant Pasta

I had great plans for tonight. I was going to make ricotta-stuffed tomatoes, but the tomatoes we got in our CSA box, although beautiful, weren’t really suited for that. We needed some good, big heirloom or beefsteak-type tomatoes, and these were smaller and juicier. We also had an excess of chard, so we decided to make chard-tomato pasta instead. Other than boiling the pasta, we did the whole thing on the grill, with me serving as sous-chef and Pat manning his domain. The result was lovely with a bottle of Rancho Sisquoc Sauvignon Blanc, enjoyed al fresco on a beautiful summer evening while Nora was snoozing. That’s a helluva Friday night these days!

The finished product

Chard-Tomato Peasant Pasta 
Adapted from this recipe

1 bunch chard (red, rainbow, swiss, erbette… whatever you’ve got), cleaned and roughly chopped (cut stems into smaller pieces)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
4-5 medium ripe tomatoes
12 oz. (one package) fresh whole wheat fettucine
splash of white wine and/or squeeze of lemon

Roast the tomatoes on the grill, turning with tongs, until the skin starts to bubble. Alternatively, you can roast them under the broiler (or just chop them and add them with the chard, if you’re in a hurry).

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute the garlic in a large saute pan for 1 minute until softening a little, making sure it doesn’t burn.  Add chard and cook until wilted, 5-7 minutes. Add chopped roasted tomatoes and cook for a couple more minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted water until it’s 1-2 minutes from being done.

Add the pasta to the pan with the chard and tomato mixture, along with a bit of the pasta water, and cook until done, another minute or two, stirring. Add a splash of white wine and/or a squeeze of lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with grated parmesan.

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