Toddler-Friendly Foods: Spinach, Zucchini and Carrot Muffins

FW is a picky eater. He won’t touch any vegetables or meat*, and there are even just a few fruits he enjoys. His favorite food groups are: bread, bananas, plain Greek yogurt and cheese.

FW does, however, LOVE muffins. And anything remotely sweet. So, I’ve been making a lot of muffins lately, and trying to hide in as many veggies as I can. These muffins are a go-to in our house. You could probably omit some of the honey if you wanted them even lower sugar, but each muffin has about 9 g. of sugar, which is less than is in most non-plain yogurts.

These are easy, a fun color, and I enjoy eating them too! Try them out for yourself. They’re also FW (aka picky eater)-approved ūüôā AND, with their bright green color, they’d be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!

Spinach, Zucchini and Carrot Muffins - i crashed the web - toddler friendly food and breakfast

Spinach, Zucchini and Carrot Muffins
Makes 18-20 muffins

Here’s what you need:

  • 6 ounces raw spinach
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large banana
  • 1/2 cup milk (I’ve used unsweetened almond milk as well as whole milk, it depends on what I have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten (I’ve also used .25 c Egg Beaters)
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners, or use silicone muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray (I have green and pink ones which FW loves to eat out of, so that’s what I tend to use).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In your blender or food processor (I put mine in my Vitamix), mix first 7 ingredients (spinach through butter) until completely pureed. Add in egg.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Mix together until just combined. Do not over-mix or muffins will be tough!
  5. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean.

Spinach, Zucchini and Carrot Muffins - i crashed the web - toddler friendly food and breakfast

*Confession – FW did eat some meat somewhat recently – I snuck some ham into (you guessed it) a corn muffin!

Some questions for you:

  • Any tips for picky eaters?
  • Any favorite lower sugar muffin recipe?

Meatless Monday: Zoodles with Spinach Basil Pesto

I love my spiralizer. Have I told you that lately? Okay, I did just last week … But seriously, I’ve even written an¬†ode to my spiralizer.

I love my zoodler.

It makes cooking so much fun.

I feel like a kid.

There you have it – my haiku to my spiralizer. There’s just something about it that makes cooking so much fun and reminds me of when I was a kid playing with play dough and making mystery meals … you know what I mean? Now that that’s off my chest¬†(#awkward), here’s a quick and easy recipe that I made last week for St. Patrick’s Day- a super green, yet healthy, vegan dish for B and me. Sorry, I’m Italian and we had already had corned beef on Sunday ¬†– so for the holiday it was super¬†green¬†noodles.

zoodles and pesto

Zoodles with Spinach Basil Pesto

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 medium-to-large zucchini
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • a large bunch of basil – about 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup toasted chopped¬†or slivered¬†almonds (toasting them brings out a nutty flavor)
  • 3-5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (depending on how thin you like your pesto – I like mine a little thicker so I use less olive oil)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Using your zoodler (okay, or spiralizer) cut your zucchini into fun noodle-like pieces. When done, I put my zoodles in a pile on the cutting board and like to cut them in 1/3s or 1/2s so the pieces aren’t so large. Set aside.
  2.  Add garlic, basil and spinach to blender or food processor. I use my food processor and it works just fine. Mix well.
  3. Add in toasted almonds, continue to blend until a thick paste forms.
  4. Add in olive oil, one tablespoonful at a time and continue to blend until paste becomes somewhat creamy. Add in any extra salt, garlic, basil or olive oil to taste, as necessary. Mine makes about 1/3 cup pesto, which is perfect for this recipe. You could probably use a little less pesto but I like my zoodles coated!
  5. In a pan over medium heat, toss zoodles with pesto and heat for about 3-5 minutes or until just tossed and warm. Enjoy! Makes two healthy dinner portions.

Top with any of your favorite toppings РI like mine with parmesan cheese (not vegan), diced tomato, more fresh basil and even sometimes sautéed onions.

I’ll definitely be sharing more zoodle recipes soon – I’ve already made shrimp zoodle scampi, zoodles with homemade tomato sauce … and even used my spiralizer on sweet potatoes to make curly sweet potato fries!

Some questions for you:

  • What’s the next Meatless Monday recipe you have planned? I’m joining¬†with this¬†MM linkup¬†and of course checking out MeatlessMonday.com for ideas!
  • Zoodler fans – what zoodle recipe should I make next? This is my second one shared in a week.
  • How do you make your pesto?¬†I typically use basil, olive oil, parmesan¬†cheese and pignoli nuts, so this is a different version for me!¬†

Meatless Monday: Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

It’s just a few days before the holidays, and amidst all the heavy meals, treats, and so on, we’re all in need for a healthy, light, yet comforting and satisfying alternative. Enter: quinoa. I love quinoa. Quinoa in my granola, quinoa as a side dish, quinoa as a stuffing for zucchini or squash, quinoa in soup, quinoa on my salads, etc (seriously, see all the quinoa I enjoy). Quinoa is filling, healthy and is a great starting point for any vegetarian meal.

I’ve been back in NY for the holidays and my mom let me make this dish for her and my dad. She pretty much had all the ingredients on hand, and it was great to be able to help her with dinner, especially as she’s been busy cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, and so on in preparing for the craziness of the holidays.

Looking for a simple, healthy dish to make in less than 30 minutes that’s sure to please your family (even your parents)? Here you go. You’re welcome ūüôā

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper + Chickpea Quinoa Salad - i crashed the web

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable (or chicken if you’re not a vegetarian) broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup chickpeas

Here’s what you do:

  1. Warm up the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook until softened and appears translucent. And smells delicious ūüôā
  2. Turn down the heat to low and add in quinoa. Toast quinoa (continue to stir so it doesn’t burn) for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add in vegetable broth and thyme and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil. Cover quinoa, turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 6 minutes.
  4. Add in the chopped carrots. Cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes, adding in finely chopped pepper after about 5 minutes so it softens. When all broth is absorbed, turn off the heat, add the tomatoes and spinach, and continue to stir until the spinach is wilted. Just before serving, add in chickpeas and give it a final stir some everything is evenly distributed.
  5. Enjoy! Makes 4-6 side dishes or 2-3 main meals for a vegetarian dish.
Carrot, Spinach, Pepper and Chickpea Quinoa Salad - ingredients

some of the ingredients – not pictured, chickpeas and spinach

Carrot, Spinach, Pepper + Chickpea Quinoa Salad - i crashed the web

look how colorful it is!

 

Happy Christmas Eve Eve! (yes, mom – that really is a thing)

Easy Spinach and Chickpea Veggie Burgers

I’ve never been a hamburger fan. While I do love meat (sausage, steak and lamb please!) I’ve never been a big fan of hamburgers. Still, I love a good veggie burger. There’s something so comforting about the slight crunch on the outside, and the all-over healthy mushy veggieness on the inside (as you can tell I’m no food writer). SO, I’ve been looking for different recipes so that I can take on this task of making myself a good and quick veggie burger without just opening my freezer and grabbing a Morningstar burger patty (I tend to keep the Spicy Black Bean, Asian and Tomato and Basil Pizza Burgers on hand at all times). Well, here’s one recipe that I recently tried. It made a pretty good burger, but I’m still looking for another one to try that has a different flavor. B – who has a self-proclaimed “meat tooth” – even liked them! He ate two (with a plethora of hot sauces), asked to take the leftover for lunch, and said “If you make these again I’ll eat them.” I was stunned – and ecstatic!

Do you have any recommendations of other easy (meaning not only not complicated but likely I have all the ingredients on hand), quick veggie burger recipes?

easy veggie burger - spinach and chickpea veggie burger
Easy Spinach and Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 Cups Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Can Chickpeas, Drained
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Red Onion
  • 1/3 Cup Ground Golden Flaxseed Meal (I used this)
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:

  1. Heat oven to 475.
  2. Place all ingredients into an electric mixer.
  3. Slowly mix ingredients together, until they form a chunky liquid-like texture. The texture is almost like a thick cookie dough – moist but still moldable.
  4. Make batter into 5-6 veggie burger patties. Place patties on nonstick pan (or tin foil sprayed with Pam on top of a pan) and place into pre-heated oven.
  5. Cook each side for about 8-10 minutes. They should be lightly brown and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, when through. You could also cook them on top of the stove or on a grill if you prefer.
  6. Enjoy! I¬†like to serve mine on a wheat roll or English muffin with avocado, feta and arugula. Feel free to add ketchup or mustard if that’s your thing! ¬†I also made these with homemade oven baked fries.

More good news? Depending on how big you make the patties, they can be anywhere from 120-200 calories a burger!

easy veggie burger - spinach and chickpea veggie burger

The spinach/chickpea patties before they went in the oven

easy veggie burger - spinach and chickpea veggie burger

burger and homemade baked fries in the oven

spinach and chickpea burger

Homemade veggie burger! Served mine with avocado, side salad and baked fries.

Crock Pot Veggie Casserole

I love my crock pot, and I’m always looking for new recipes other than stews, soups and heavy beef/chicken dishes. Well – I definitely found one, and it’s a keeper! When perusing the Internet a few months ago, I came across this recipe for a Vegetable Casserole in the slow cooker. Since B has what he likes to call a “meat tooth,” I hardly ever make vegetarian recipes and had put it aside. So, this week when I was home in NY, when my mom told me she had never used her crock pot and was looking for a recipe to try, I knew exactly what to suggest!

We made this recipe. It was delicious and filling – and my whole family (mom, dad and brother) really enjoyed it. Although my dad did end up grilling some chicken to eat with it, but it’d definitely be filling enough (in my opinion) on its own.

slow cooker vegetarian casserole
Crock Pot Veggie Casserole
(slightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens)
Here’s what you need:
  • 2¬†15.5-ounce¬†cans cannellini beans
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas
  • 1/4
    c basil pesto (I used homemade, but you can certainly buy it at the store)
  • 1¬†medium¬†onion, chopped
  • 4
    cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1
    16-ounce package refrigerated cooked plain polenta cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices Рwe used this Sundried Tomato Garlic Polenta and only used 2 cloves of garlic, above
  • 1 l
    arge tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1
    8-ounce package finely shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 cups)
  • 2
    cups fresh spinach
  • 1
    cup torn radicchio

Here’s what you do:

  1. Rinse and drain chickpeas and beans. In large bowl combine beans, 2 tablespoons of the pesto, diced onion, garlic, oregano and basil.
  2. In your large crock pot, layer half of bean mixture, half of the sliced polenta, and half of cheese. Add remaining beans and polenta.
  3. Cover; cook on low heat setting 4 to 6 hours or on high heat setting 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
  4. Add tomato, remaining cheese, spinach, and radicchio. Combine remaining pesto with 1 tablespoon water. Drizzle pesto mixture on casserole.
  5. Enjoy! Serve alone, or as a side dish to a meat item (such as grilled chicken) if you prefer.

vegetarian crockpot casserole

labeled 2 bean mixture

labeled 3 first layer

vegetarian crock pot casserole

labeled 5 final layer
slow cooker veggie casserole

Chicken Marinara with Spinach and Mozzarella

I call my mom pretty much every day on my walk home from work. We talk about how our days went, what’s new with family, and of course, what we’re having for dinner. I love hearing what my mom is making – she’s usually just finished cooking when I’m walking home – and it often inspires me to cook up something similar.

Last week my mom mentioned she was cooking a dish I have always loved Рchicken marinara with spinach and mozzarella. She makes a huge portion of it for her and my dad and they eat it as leftovers the next day. I happened to have a whole bag of spinach on hand and had planned to make a spring spinach salad, but when the weather turned cold again (brr!) I was yearning for something comforting. And this was perfect! Even B Рthe vegetable hater Рended up eating his with the spinach.

Chicken Marinara with Spinach and Mozzarella

Here’s what you need (serves 4):

  • 1 bag of spinach (serves 3)
  • 1/4 c flour + salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (or 8 chicken tenderloins)
  • 3-5 tbs¬†butter (hey i said it was comfort food!)
  • 1 c tomato sauce (I just make my own)
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese

Here’s what you do:

  • First, cook the spinach. Spray a pan with Pam and cook spinach. As the spinach starts to wilt, add 1 tbs of butter and salt/pepper¬†to flavor and soften the spinach.¬† After wilted, remove from heat and set aside.
  • While the spinach is cooking, pound chicken breasts until they are 1/2 – 1 inch thickness (if you’re using tenderloins, you can skip this step)
  • Coat chicken in the flour / salt / pepper combo thoroughly.
  • In a large pan that will hold all the chicken breasts, plus some extra space, melt the rest of the butter. Cook the chicken until they are brown on each side. You can add additional butter (or oil) to the pan if needed.
  • After the chicken is browned, top with the spinach. Then, top each chicken/spinach with a slice of mozzarella.
  • Pour the tomato sauce onto the pan, around each piece of chicken (not on TOP of the chicken). Cook on medium heat and then reduce to a simmer while the cheese melts.

Enjoy the cheesy/saucy goodness. If that isn’t comfort food for a chilly spring night, I don’t know what is!

I made mine with extra spinach and served with spinach and zucchini fries. B got pasta as well.